Dr. Marshall Watson, Department Chair of Texas Tech’s Petroleum Engineering program said understanding petroleum is very simple.
“When we speak of oil creation, we say, ‘Well, where is the kitchen?’”
Meaning what’s the organic material, environment, temperature, and pressure.
Watson said depending on the temperature, what once lived billions of years ago is now our oil and gas.
“The big component of oil and gas, it’s all about risk taking,” he said.
Watson said oil and gas prices have driven the technology we've seen in the last 15 years.
“We worry about running out of oil, it’s not about running out of oil, its deliverability,” said Watson, “It’s how fast can we get the oil out of the ground to your gasoline tank and that's the name of the game.”
West Texas is one of the largest petroleum producing areas, largely in part because of the Permian Basin.
“The fear out there of course is that we're fracking into aquifers and things like that, and were not.”
Watson said its physically impossible.
“I mean the physics of the fracture, the boundaries of each of these layers that go for thousands of feet between the zone we are producing oil and gas from, from where the aquifer is the fractures just can't travel that far,” Watson explained.
However, if they did hit a salt water zone adjacent to an oil and gas zone, Watson said the oil industry would be in a world of hurt because producing water is a tremendous cost, if not the largest for the industry.
“If the fracture actually grows and touches that zone and the water comes in, it renders the well uneconomical, so we can't survive even fracking into a zone right next to it,” he said.
Talk of an oil boom in Lubbock has been surfacing, but Watson said geologically there are limits.
“Now these shale clays that we're talking about exist in these basins,” he explained, “So, unfortunately Lubbock sits about right here, so we are kind of on the edge of all this.”
He said because of a different geological environment, reservoir strata from the basin in northern areas will be very thin or none existent.
“I would love to see a lot engineers and geologist and companies settle in Lubbock, that reality I don't think is going to happen,” said Watson.
But he said nothing’s quite 100 percent in the oil and gas business.Wind energy has rapidly taken off here in West Texas, but Watson said it barely offsets the amount of oil and gas we need for energy.