Energy Boom Helps Fuel West Texas, Great Plains Population Growth

The boom in Bakken and Permian Basin oil and gas activity helped fuel population growth in North Dakota and Texas from 2011 to 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday.

Midland, Texas ranked as the fastest-growing metro area from July 1, 2011 to July 1, 2012, with population growth of 4.6 percent. Neighboring Odessa, Texas, ranked fifth, with Casper and Cheyenne, Wyo., and Bismarck, N.D. ranked among the top 20 fastest-growing metropolitan areas.

"After a long period of out-migration, some parts of the Great Plains – from just south to the Canadian border all the way down to West Texas –are experiencing rapid population growth," said Thomas Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau's senior adviser and acting director, in a statement. "There are probably many factors fueling this growth on the prairie, but no doubt the energy boom is playing a role. For instance, the Permian Basin, located primarily in West Texas, and North Dakota accounted for almost half of the total U.S. growth in firms that mine or extract oil and gas, during a recent one-year period."

In micropolitan areas, which contain an urban cluster of between 10,000 and 49,999 people, Williston, N.D. topped the list of fastest-growing cities with 9.3 percent. Dickinson, N.D. ranked third among fastest-growing micropolitan areas with 6.5 percent.

Eleven Texas counties ranked among the 50 fastest-growing as well as among the 50 highest numeric gainers from July 1, 2011 through July 1, 2012. Bexar County, which encompasses San Antonio and close to the core South Texas counties impacted by Eagle Ford shale activity, ranked 11th among the largest numeric gainers in this timeframe, a U.S. Census Bureau spokesperson told Rigzone in an email.

Dimmitt County, located on the Texas-Mexico border, ranked 20th on the list of U.S. counties that experienced the largest percentage gain in population from 2011 to 2012. Guadalupe County, just east of San Antonio, ranked 49th among the counties nationwide with the largest percent gain in population.

Two North Dakota counties, Williams and Stark, ranked among the five fastest-growing counties with populations of 10,000 or more.

Exploration and production activity from Permian Basin and Eagle Ford helped bolster Texas oil production to nearly 1.5 million barrels of oil per day, an almost 50 percent increase in crude oil production since 2011, Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick said in a Feb. 28 statement. Craddick added that Texas now represents nearly a fourth of total U.S. crude oil production, and noted that the oil and gas energy sector created 427,761 jobs in Texas and paid $9.25 billion in state taxes in 2011.

The surge in exploration and production (E&P) activity in the Eagle Ford supported nearly 50,000 full-time jobs in 20 counties and contributed more than $25 billion to the South Texas economy, according to a March 13 report by the Eagle Ford Shale Task Force. However, the surge in E&P activity has created infrastructure challenges for South Texas, including the need for a sustainable housing plan for the region and roads wearing down from greater traffic.

The Permian Basin continues to play a significant role in Texas oil production as the increased use of enhanced oil recovery practices in the Permian Basin has substantially impacted U.S. oil production. More than 270 million barrels of oil were produced in the Permian Basin in 2010, and over 280 million barrels of oil were produced in 2011, according to the Texas Railroad Commission.

In 2011, North Dakota was the fourth largest crude oil producing U.S. state, accounting for more than 7 percent of U.S. oil production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). A 35 percent increase in production from 2010 to 2011 was primarily driven by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the Bakken formation.

EIA expects U.S. crude oil production to keep growing rapidly over the next two years, growing from an average 6.5 million barrels per day in 2012 to an average 7.3 million bpd in 2013 and 7.9 million bpd in 2014. Drilling in tight oil plays in the onshore Williston, western Gulf of Mexico and Permian Basins, is expected to account for the bulk of that forecasted production growth, EIA reported in its March 12 Short-Term Energy Outlook.

Karen Boman has more than 10 years of experience covering the upstream oil and gas sector. Email Karen at


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