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Study: North Texas Drilling Adds $11.8B To Economy

FORT WORTH (AP) — Production from the natural gas-rich Barnett Shale in North Texas has risen even as drilling activity and natural gas prices have fallen, according to a study commissioned by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce released Wednesday.

The Waco, Texas-based Perryman Group analysis shows that oil and gas drilling in the Barnett Shale is contributing $11.8 billion annually to the North Texas economy, up from $11.1 billion per year in 2011. Drilling adds $480.6 million in taxes to local cities, counties and school districts, the study says.

Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes data shows fewer new wells have been drilled in the Barnett Shale every quarter since 2012, but more productive wells, investment in infrastructure and the establishment of service jobs mean that revenues related to the drilling in North Texas haven't tapered off, according to economist Ray Perryman.

"The Barnett Shale is still a really big deal for this region," he said.

The average active well, because of advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques, is producing far greater volumes of gas than in 2008, when the number of wells peaked, said Will Brackett, who writes an online newsletter that focuses on shale drilling.

"Each individual well is so much more productive," Brackett said.

The study comes as some residents question whether the drilling poses risks to human health and the environment, and ahead of a November referendum in Denton on a fracking ban.

Perryman has said the ban would cost Denton's economy $251.4 million over 10 years.

However, a team of researchers at the University of North Texas have found that the economic benefit of fracking in Denton has been limited because the lion's share of royalties have gone to mineral-rights owners outside the city.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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