T. Boone Pickens owns nearly 70,000 acres in Texas, and the majority of it is home for many types of wildlife, and kept free of the impacts of farming or other agriculture. Pickens has even been known to take oil and gas drillers to court, if necessary, to force them to live up to their obligations when it comes to land restoration.
In the video below, Pickens talks with Foolish contributor Jason Hall about his conservation efforts on his own land, and how advanced drilling techniques like horizontal drilling allow for access to oil and gas deposits in areas where surface drilling isn't viable or wanted by the landowner. He uses his own land as an example: Horizontal drilling was taking place more than one mile beneath the land where the interview was being recorded! For more, watch the video, or read the transcript below.
Jason Hall: As an oilman, as an energy guy -- which you are -- you've done a tremendous amount when it comes to some environmental causes, and you've done a lot with your property with conservation efforts. I'd like to hear you talk a little bit about that.
T. Boone Pickens: Some people like to say, "If you're an oil man, you can't be an environmentalist." No. You can be an environmentalist, and I have been a good steward of the land and everything else.
They said, "Oh, OK, your ranch. But that's an isolated piece. Are you a good steward every place else?" Well, of course I am. You don't change personalities when you leave your ranch and go someplace else.
I've been a great protector of wildlife. Do I hunt? Yes. I have more quail than anybody in Texas, because my land -- I have almost 70,000 acres here; 20,000 I have 400 Angus cows on, and the other 50,000, I haven't had any cattle on it in 20-25 years.
That has been turned back to wildlife, and consequently I have good quail hunting. But we suffered during the drought that we've just gone through. A normal year for me would be 25,000 birds that I would raise.
Hall: On your land.
Pickens: Yes, 25,000. When I went into the season, the first of November, due to my taking care of the wildlife, the quail in particular, I'd have 25,000 quail, and I'd expect to kill 10% of those.
But when I got around to the nesting season in March/April of the next year, after the season, I'd killed 2,500 quail, but -- just through the way quail live, die, and reproduce -- I would go into the nesting season with 6,000 birds, is all.
Hall: Just through the way Mother Nature operates.
Pickens: That's right. I was taking 10%, and I was losing to predators, to others -- and I'm not big on trying to control predators. They've got to live, too. They're part of the ecosystem. I don't encourage them, but I don't spend much time discouraging them, either.
I think one of the things that you've also done is -- some of the oil and gas drilling interests that you have on your own property -- at times you've really challenged those producers that were working on your property to live up to their end of their agreements to return the land back to its state.
Pickens: When you're going to have oil and gas production, there is no question you've got to bring in drilling rigs. Then you end up with producing pads, you end up with tank batteries, the whole thing.
In a way, it's unsightly, but the United States is the only country in the world where the minerals are owned by the landowner. Not in Canada, not in Europe, not in Australia. No place else but the United States are there freehold minerals.
If you're going to develop the oil and gas, then you're going to have to take some damage on the surface. But you can minimize that damage. We work very well with the producers on my properties. I'm one of the producers on my property. I have wells on there. We're producing about 4,000 barrels of oil a day, and 25 million cubic feet of gas, and we have three rigs running on the property right now.
That's a lot of activity that you have, but we've worked with the producers. We're not going to drill in the quail country, so we maneuver around. But you're drilling horizontal wells, so it's not a target vertically drilled -- so it's easier to move your pad locations where your rigs work, than it is if you're going to drill vertically.
We scoot them over here 300 feet, get them out of the quail country and all ...
Hall: They can still access those resources that might be a mile that way, or half a mile the other way -- not underneath it.
Pickens: That's right. Here, we're drilling down 8,400 and we start the curve. Then we drill -- 5,000 feet is kind of a normal horizontal. They've gone right under this building, going back north. The rig's sitting back south, but has gone right under the improvements here.
Some people would say, "Oh, my God, I can't stand that." Well, I know what you can do.
Hall: It's almost two miles under the earth, that that's happening.
Hall: A lot of bedrock between here and there. It really seems that, in a way, because of the horizontal drilling technology, environmentally speaking it should be simpler for drillers to be able to access resources with less impact on the environment, in a lot of ways.
Pickens: Exactly. That's the way it works. But you've seen some places where you have wells on 10-acre spacing which is, oh 30 miles southwest of here, at Borger. Those wells were drilled over there in the old Panhandle Field, back in the '30s, '40s, and '50s, through that period of time.
Those were drilled on vertical, with 10-acre spacing. Pretty disruptive to the surface, but a lot of oil was produced.
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