[imgcontainer] [img:771310_t607.jpeg] [source]National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration[/source] Most of the time, satellite views of Earth show cities. In this shot, Houston can be seen on the top right and San Antonio is the right center of light directly west. The arch of light under San Antonio isn’t a city. It’s oil and gas drilling in the Eagle Ford shale. Want to know how big the shale gas industry is in rural America? Look at this photo. [/imgcontainer]

We drove from Austin, Texas, to Moravia on New Year’s Eve, a 90 mile southeastern jaunt from the capitol city. It was raining on the way down so we didn’t see much, but by the time we left the Moravia Store later that evening the skies were clear and…

It was bright. As we rounded the curves and crested the hills in this beautiful part of Central Texas, we saw the lights. 

Actually, we saw the drilling rigs, all working the Eagle Ford Shale formation that sweeps from east of San Antonio south and west. Every rig was lit up like a mall parking lot and as soon as we lost sight of one operation another bright light lay ahead.

We didn’t grasp the scale of the new shale gas production taking place across rural America until we saw Central Texas at night. And then, a few days later, a friend showed us the satellite photo taken at night of southern Texas. That’s the photo above.

The bouquet of light at the top right hand corner is Houston. San Antonio is the tight cluster of light directly east. Corpus Christi is southwest of Houston; Laredo is west of Corpus.

The arc of light that begins southeast of San Antonio and then curves south and west is the Eagle Ford Shale. This area is rural. The biggest cities are no more than 20,000; most towns are closer to 4,000. It’s ranch and farm land.

So where is all that light coming from? The rigs, just like the ones we saw on the way back from Moravia.

The Corpus Christi Caller has a similar satellite photo taken in 2007, below. The Eagle Ford areas is pitch black. 

[imgcontainer] [img:546646_t607.jpeg] [source]NOAA[/source] This is the same area as in the photo above, only it was taken in 2007. [/imgcontainer]

The Caller reports that the electricity company serving the area has had a ten percent growth in the last year in the shale region. Outside the shale region, the growth has been about half of a percent.

The shale gas economy is enormous. So big, The Caller quips, “you can see it from space.”

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.