Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Story of an Energy Boomtown

This past Sunday was a perfect day for a stroll through Texas' energy history at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. The sun was shining, the warm February breeze was stirring (?!), and my folks were in town looking for a little Austin entertainment.

Each of our party found something of particular interest in the exhibit on oil. Mom was impressed by Howard Hughes' specialized drill bits: the first in a long line of his lucrative engineering feats. Nirav practiced adding the words "wildcatter" and "boll weevil" to his lexicon. Dad and I met at the oilfield map of Texas, and he helped me to recognize how it reflected not only the history of the land, and of an industry, but also of our family. I am the third generation of Nippert to find my calling in Texas energy. My grandfather is a petroleum engineer whose work traces production across the Gulf Coast. My father is a natural gas systems accounting specialist in the Fort Worth Barnett Shale, and my uncle a land man in Victoria/Gonzales.

My own personal energy future made an appearance on the map as well. A little dot on Iraan, TX caught my attention immediately. Desert Sky Wind Project near Iraan is a 160.5 MW wind farm spread over 15 acres on Indian Mesa. If you've taken the hike out I-10 to El Paso since 2001, you've seen it. In the great aesthetic arguement against windmills, I think this one shows that the installations don't always destroy the view.

Iraan, TX was born of oil. The unofficial word is that when Ira and Ann Taylor leased ranchlands to oil prospectors and lucked out in 1926, the boomtown that grew from the discovery was appropriately named Iraan (pronounced Ira-ann). The current wind installation sits atop a mesa that continues to harbor and produce oil, while providing an ideal natural formation and geographic location for consistent high velocity winds.

Yates Oilfield, Iraan, TX: 1926 and today

For anyone who might be interested in a short drive (4 hours) West, I have arranged with the operations manager of Desert Sky to have a short tour on Monday morning of spring break (March 10). I'll be sure to post a few more pics when we get back!

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