The drop in crude oil prices have cost thousands of jobs across the Texas oil patch. But, just south of Lockhart: the bust has provided a surprising economic boom -- for one community and a symbol of hope for another.
From a distance it looks like a small town rising out of ranch land south of Lockhart. But at the intersection of SH 130 and Hwy 80 it becomes clear this is no residential community. It’s a mothball fleet of more than two dozen giant oil drilling platforms. The site -which is not far from the Skydive San Marcos airstrip -has raised a few eyebrows as more and more platforms arrive.
"It’s starting to become more noticeable, we are starting to get more questions, what are these things, what are they doing there, what are they doing with them, are they tearing them down, nobody really has an answer," said Tim Murphy with SkyDive San Marcos.
From the air you can see how the drilling platforms are parked neatly in rows. The site is overflow from a large yard in Seguin and is operated by Oklahoma based energy - Exploration Company.
James Montgomery who owns a small Caldwell Co. drilling business has also scaled back his operations.
"I had people tell me oil would never be below $100 again, and I just took that with a grain of salt,” said Montgomery.
To him parking platforms - and not scraping them- is an example of betting on the future.
"Looking back, and thinking about it, it always comes back, it’s a supply and demand market, so eventually the demand will reach the supply again or exceed that," said Montgomery.
There is a positive side to the mothball fleet- which are being repaired and maintained. Crews working at the site provide a small economic windfall for the few businesses in the community of Fentress.
Make no mistake, pain is being felt, the town of Luling is one of the communities feeling the effects of the downturn.
"Our community has a lot of parents who are in the oil field, a lot of them are laid off right now, so it’s kind of effected everything as in the businesses, they don’t have the money to go out and shop, down to little league and soccer, we've seen a decline in registrations, because the parents don’t have the funding,” said Ashley Flores with the Luling Chamber of Commerce.
The museum in Luling is filled with examples of Texas Oil Patch booms and busts. To get thru this current period -- town leaders are focusing on promoting upcoming festivals.
"So for us I think it’s more of a hopeful than a depressing time, we are definitely looking at the positives,” said Flores.
But along with that optimism, a watchful eye will also be kept on the mothball fleet in Fentress-- for any signs of a rebound.
Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. Said 619 rigs were exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. last week. A year ago, 1,543 rigs were active. The U.S. rig count peaked in 1981 with 4,530 rigs in operation
The lowest count been was 488 in 1999.