The exploration and drilling boom in South Texas' Eagle Ford shale play has drawn hundreds of workers to the region, crowding the existing hotels and housing beyond capacity. To meet housing needs, oil service companies that including Halliburton, Weatherford and Schlumberger invited Houston-based Remote Logistics International to set up the Three Rivers Lodge, a lodging camp for oil service workers in Three Rivers, Texas, approximately 70 miles south of San Antonio.
The facility, which held its grand opening on Aug. 6, is part of Remote Logistics' offerings of support services for both the offshore oil and gas industry as well as land camp harsh remote environments. For oil service companies, offering the housing is about safety. Workers driving great distances to and from work sites, and then looking for food on the way back to their lodgings, are more exhausted and at greater risks on the road, said Hud Gibbins, who works in business development at the company and helps directly oversee the lodge.
Founded by Jenny Savage, who comes from a background in hotel and restaurant management, Remote Logistics caters to what it considers niche markets like South Texas with facilities providing housing, laundry, meals and entertainment under one roof. Remote Logistics has handled catering and housekeeping duties for onshore and offshore rigs and facilities in the Gulf of Mexico and the Middle East for five years; the company also offers remote medical services for oil and gas operations. Remote Logistic's roster of clients includes Rowan and Cal Dive International.
Though the buildings are temporary, the landscaping and facilities feel more like a ski lodge, said Gibbins. The facility offers three meals a day, prepared by a culinary staff of four-star rated chefs from across the globe. The menu includes heart healthy offerings such as a salad bar and grilled chicken to southern fried chicken, biscuits and all the pies, cakes and cookies you can eat. Workers are sent out each day with a box lunch containing sandwiches, fruit and two bottles of water.
"The lodge caters to workers ranging from the mid-20s to 40s and 50s who are away from their homes and families for 21 days at a time," said Gibbins. "Offering food, entertainment and lodging under one roof, including a movie room, wireless internet and DVD players makes them feel more at home."
The facility offers 192 beds and 48 rooms. The lodge is made up of trailers 28 feet wide by 60 feet long, but the kitchen and rec room are each doubled up to make one 56 foot by 60 foot trailer. There are two dedicated to the kitchen and dining room, two for the reception, rec room, movie room and business center/conference room, six for crew quarters and bathroom/shower, and one for the camp boss and medic's office. A company spokesperson said the lodge is already almost entirely booked and additional buildings will need to be ordered to keep up vacancy given the enormous demand.
While Three Rivers was built with oil service workers in mind, the occasional traveler in the area would be welcome and receive the same treatment. In fact, some rooms are being set aside to accommodate hunters for the upcoming deer season. Three Rivers Lodge also will serve as a flagship facility for Remote Logistics training, said Gibbins, with all workers hired by the company will undergo training at the lodge before heading to assignments overseas.
Demand for worker housing is so great in South Texas, Remote Logistics has plans to open another lodging camp by year-end near Ashterton in Dimmit County or Cuero in DeWitt County to accommodate workers. Remote Logistics is conducting demographic work to determine the site for the new camp. The company also will begin offering its catering and housekeeping services to land camps geared towards the Bakken oil play, where the surge in exploration and production activity has created a similar influx of workers into North Dakota communities that lack the hotels and housing to accommodate all the newcomers.
Positive Outlook for Eagle Ford Development
Eagle Ford exploration and development activity has created positive economic output for South Texas, an area of the state that traditionally has had higher unemployment and lower income per household compared to other portions of the state, said Dr. Dominique Halaby, former director of the University of Texas at San Antonio's Center for Community and Business Research, who worked on a study of the Eagle Ford's economic impact on South Texas that was released earlier this year.
Since the Eagle Ford boom began, unemployment in South Texas has declined, going against the national trend of rising unemployment, and creating wealth for ranchers and farmers who have faced difficult financial times in the past, said Halaby, now a professor at Georgia Southern University, at the North American Prospect Expo in Houston earlier this month.
In 2020, Eagle Ford shale activity is expected to account to about $11.6 billion in gross state product, $21.6 billion in total economic output and support nearly 67,900 full-time jobs in the region.
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