March 10, 2016 – Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick discussed the benefits and challenges of horizontal drilling recently at the University of Houston Law Center. "Shale Development Challenges" was part of the Environment, Energy & Natural Resources Center’s Lecture Series for Spring 2016.
Craddick was the keynote speaker for an event that included earlier discussions about the petroleum engineering challenges and the legal uncertainties attendant with the transformative techniques of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Her talk discussed the duties of the Railroad Commission and oil production across Texas. Craddick said despite recent instability in the oil and gas field, she is optimistic for the future.
“In Texas today, we’re producing almost 2.8 million barrels of oil a day, which are all-time high numbers,” Craddick said. “Thirty-seven percent of the state’s economy is driven by oil and gas. The industry is not going away. This is a long-term industry. There is going to be a level out in the next few years and Texas is well-positioned.”
“The Texas Railroad Commission serves a critical role in ensuring that the state’s finite natural resources are developed in a safe, environmentally sensitive, and conversationally-minded manner,” said Associate Professor Bret Wells. “Our students were able to hear directly from Commissioner Craddick about the challenges that the agency currently faces and how the industry and the Railroad Commission has continued to evolve.”
Other speakers included Dr. Christine Ehlig-Economides, a professor at the University of Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering as well as Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Chair. Economides discussed the state of the science for allocating production when horizontal wells are in close proximity to hydraulic fracturing sites The second panel featured Wells and Jason Newman, a partner at Baker Botts LLP, who discussed the legal uncertainties that exist with drilling allocation wells.
“I was interested to participate in this event from the moment I first learned about it because it was asking challenging questions about shale wells that I had not thought about,” Economides said. “Preparing the presentation was an opportunity to collect relevant material, and I fully enjoyed hearing the subsequent remarks from the panel and then from Railroad Commissioner Craddick.”
“The oil and gas industry has been revolutionized by the breakthroughs in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in unconventional shale resource plays, and these transformative technologies in that particular resource have reshaped both the industry and the jurisprudence for oil and gas law in this state,” Wells added.
As to the overall conference, Wells said, “The multi-disciplinary collaboration that is possible at a tier one university like the University of Houston provides our students with the opportunity for a unique graduate level educational experience.
“It is enriching for students who will practice in the area of oil and gas law to understand how this science is unlocking new opportunities as well as the risks and issues,” he said. “That knowledge is critical for one to consider how to advise and structure business arrangements in the oil and gas context.”
The lecture was attended by attorneys, engineers, scientists, and Mexican Consul Oscar Solis Flores. Blank Rome LLP, Vinson & Elkins LLP, Bracewell LLP, and the Houston Bar Association’s Oil, Gas and Mineral Law Section co-sponsored the event.
“Our law students are blessed to have one of the strongest collection of energy lawyers in the world located in this city, and the Houston legal community is terrific in terms of supporting the development of the next generation of lawyers,” Wells said. “We are grateful to our event sponsors, the Houston Bar Association’s Oil, Gas, and Mineral Law Section, and we are also thankful for the many practitioners who came to participate in this conference.
“The Law Center wants to provide a forum for discussing important legal topics that are relevant and timely for the Houston energy community and at the same time provide an opportunity for our students to interact with the leading practitioners in this city. We hope others will come to participate in future programs.”