Tuesday, May 20, 2008
FORT WORTH - Pastor Elvis Bowman of the Greater Mount Tabor Christian Center, an aging, homespun church in a low-income neighborhood here, has a new title: energy mogul.
By letting Chesapeake Energy drill wells and pump natural gas from beneath its 50 acres, the church has pocketed tens of thousands of dollars and stands to clear tens of thousands more in royalties each month after drilling begins. The money will help pay for a new $8 million church and performance center, a $12 million mixed-use development nearby and a slate of community programs to help the less fortunate.
"It's been an unexpected treasure," says Bowman, a preacher with a gravelly voice and infectious cackle. "I know without a doubt it was divine."
In this sprawling city and surrounding area, companies are siphoning natural gas from under homes, churches, schools and golf courses in an urban drilling frenzy that's showering property owners with unexpected windfalls. The initiative takes another leap in a few months when drilling begins in Fort Worth's revitalized downtown.
The region, the nation's most active drilling basin, is the epicenter of a natural gas boom rippling across the USA. Companies are boring wells in the unlikeliest of places, transforming large swaths of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, the Rockies, and, most recently, rural Pennsylvania. They're building a vast network of pipelines to transport the gas to population centers, tanks to store the surplus and terminals to house liquefied natural gas (LNG) from overseas.
Much of the infrastructure is springing up in the Gulf of Mexico, which hasn't seen such a building flurry in decades, says Russell Braziel, managing director of Bentek Energy. In Texas, "They're drilling like banshees and finding gas like banshees," he says. "This is fabulous for the consumer."
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