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Houston County Courier - Local News

Copyright 2011 - Polk County Publishing Company

Ethanol production, oil leases attracting landowners’ attention
Houston County Courier

By Lynda Jones Managing Editor

Local members of the Texas Landowners Association and the Small Farmers and Ranchers Association addressed a variety of topics ranging from water rights, to energy crops and oil leasing in Houston County during a joint meeting held recently. James Hall of Crockett, a landowner and retired General Electric Engineering manager, presented an overview of legislation associated with water rights and groundwater conservation districts. He told the group, “Water rights right now are probably more important to you than oil. If you sell your land today, you own the rights to the water under it just like if it was oil.” Hall also discussed energy. In discussing biomass, Hall said, “In order for biomass to offer an attractive alternative to fossil fuel, the price per kwh must be competitive.” He explained why does not believe biomass production is not efficient. “Wood is not an economical fuel source, even if it’s free, Hall said. Discussions about growing sweet sorghum for ethanol production and oil leases both generated a lot of questions and apparent hope for the future among the landowners present. Benjamin Burroughs of Angelina College spoke about ethanol production. He was hired by Angelina to bring ethanol to Texas and to educate people about its production. There currently are only two ethanol refineries in Texas, he said, and they are in the Panhandle area, in Hereford. Burroughs said he is putting together a curricula for ethanol production and wants to bring it back to small farmers and small ranchers so they can learn how to increase their cash flow. Burroughs said researchers are currently looking at sweet sorghum for ethanol production. He explained sorghum is inexpensive, grows 10-14 feet tall, and only needs 25-35 inches of rain per year to grow. The average growing cycle is 100 days. A mature plant is not required to extract the juices from it for ethanol, he said. After 100 days, the sorghum plant has its maximum sugar juice content and after that, the sugar begins to degrade. Hall and another Crockett landowner/resident, John Hooks, are partners in Homegrown Fuels, LLC. The first digester for their plant in Lufkin will be built soon, he said. Hall told the audience the sweet sorghum will grow right here in Houston County. He distributed several hand-outs about the process to the audience. Burroughs said one acre of sweet sorghum has the possibility of making 300 gallons of ethanol a year. The idea is to make it here and to make jobs here, he said. Another speaker was leasing consultant Vanessa Williams of ETOCO, a drilling company. She explained the leasing process to landowners. One point she made is that title search in Texas can be tedious and lengthy because many lands have many heirs. Williams also mentioned seismic surveys and how leasing terest was very high here four years ago. Many of the Chesapeake leases created during that period have expired, she explained. Not a lot of wells were drilled at that time, she said. She deferred to an associate, Frank Lionel, to answer a question about what is different now. He said the companies then, such as Chesapeake, blanketed an area, paying a lot of money for real estate very quickly. A lot of times they didn’t do anything with it. Lionel said ETOCO’s economics are entirely different and more focused than some of the other companies. The Buda, the Georgetown and the Glen Rose shale areas are primary interests at this time, he said. “As soon as we get the lots together where we can drill, then we’ll start drilling,” he said. He explained that ETOCO also is dealing with some competitors in the area and trying to work out some deals where they can drill some wells together. “To their credit, I think we’re going to be able to work with all of them,” he said. Lionel said there are about 12 competitors in the area. “Our primary area of interest,” he said, “is a little south of Crockett and we go east of Crockett probably five miles and then I’ll go east of Crockett. . . Lovelady is the center of where we’ve been leasing and where we’ll probably start drilling.”

 

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