It’s impossible to fully comprehend the importance of the oil and gas industry to the U.S. economy. The United States dethroned Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest crude oil producer in 2018. In recent years, the U.S. has produced about 33 trillion cubic feet of natural gas annually, and is projected to produce ~36 trillion in 2023. That’s enough energy to power nearly 40 million homes for an entire year.
Petroleum exploration in the U.S. has a long and storied history. In historical oil boomtowns like Spindletop, Texas and Titusville, Pennsylvania, fortune-seekers flocked with hopes of striking it rich in the black gold rush. These towns witnessed a frenzy of development and expansion as they quickly became epicenters of innovation, economic growth, and newfound prosperity.
Modern oil and gas centers bear little resemblance to the boomtowns of the late 19th and early 20th century, but the pioneering spirit and economic importance of oil- and gas-rich regions are undiminished. For current and aspiring professionals in the oil and gas industry, modern boomtowns and other key petroleum centers remain crucially important.
Largest Oil and Gas Producing Regions
While no two boomtowns are the same, they all share a common characteristic: ample oil and gas deposits. Understanding boomtowns starts with learning about the ground beneath them.
Key United States Oil and Gas Regions
The Anadarko Basin is an expansive geological feature located across the western half of Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and southeastern sections of Kansas and Colorado.
Known for its abundant oil and natural gas deposits, predominantly in tight sandstone and shale reservoirs, the basin houses several major fields, with the most significant ones being the Hugoton, Panhandle-Hugoton, and Granite Wash plays. Historically, the Anadarko Basin has been a significant source of energy production for the United States.
Stretching across most of the eastern United States, from Alabama to New York state, the Appalachian Basin has been a significant source of natural gas and oil production.
This region primarily produces natural gas from both conventional and unconventional resources, such as coalbed methane and shale gas. Some of its notable fields include the Marcellus Shale and the Utica Shale formations.
Thanks to advancements in drilling technology and extraction methods, the Appalachian Basin has seen a substantial increase in energy output in recent years.
The Bakken Formation lies beneath North Dakota, Montana, and parts of Canada’s Saskatchewan and Manitoba provinces. This area is mainly known for its vast oil reserves, with its output significantly contributing to the US energy boom.
The Bakken Formation contains three primary layers: an upper shale layer, a middle sandstone and siltstone layer, and a lower shale layer. Technological advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have allowed access to these valuable resources.
Eagle Ford Shale
Going from south-central Texas down to the Mexican border, Eagle Ford Shale is a prolific oil and gas-producing region. With an approximate length of 400 miles, this hydrocarbon-producing formation contains horizontal layers of shale, limestone, and sandstone.
The Eagle Ford Shale region is known for producing substantial quantities of crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids, making it an essential component of the US energy industry.
Located in northwestern Louisiana and eastern Texas, Haynesville Shale is a prominent natural gas-producing formation.
This region is largely made up of a thick shale rock layer that lies deep beneath the surface, which is rich in natural gas reserves. Haynesville Shale is known for its high porosity and permeability characteristics that contribute to its high production rates.
By using advanced hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques, the region has experienced a substantial increase in natural gas output.
The Niobrara Formation stretches across Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Kansas and is a significant contributor to oil and natural gas production in the United States.
The geological structure of this region is unique, marked by several layers of shale, sandstone, and limestone. The resources are primarily contained in tight oil and shale gas reservoirs.
The Permian Basin, in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico, is one of the largest and most vital oil-producing regions in the United States.
The basin’s geological structure is a complex formation of sedimentary rocks that primarily host oil and natural gas reserves. Thanks to continuous innovations in drilling technology and extraction methods, the Permian Basin has experienced a major uptick in production, solidifying its status as a crucial component of US energy supply.
Oil and Gas Boomtowns
You’re driving through a once-sleepy town, only to find it buzzing with activity. Trucks rumble down the streets, new businesses are popping up left and right, and there’s a palpable sense of excitement in the air.
Welcome to an oil and gas boomtown! These towns come to life when the promise of black gold sets off a frenzy of development and economic growth.
Rapid Economic Growth
People from all walks of life flocked to these towns, drawn by the promise of high-paying jobs. It’s not uncommon for communities to double or even triple over just a few short years, transforming from quiet rural areas to bustling hubs of activity.
A skyrocketing population leads to rapid housing development, often in the form of new apartment complexes, hotels, and RV parks. Roads may be widened and improved to accommodate the heavy truck traffic that comes with drilling operations. Restaurants, bars, and shops open their doors, eager to serve the growing number of workers and their families.
Housing Prices (Median Listing Price Per Square Feet)
|May 2022||May 2023||% change|
|Baton Rouge, LA||167||168||1%|
|Houston-Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX||177||178||1%|
The Challenges of Boom-Bust Economies
Rapid growth in an oil and gas boomtown can also bring challenges. Overcrowded schools, increased crime rates, and strains on public services may put a damper on the newfound prosperity. The once-quiet streets become congested with traffic, and the cost of living can soar as landlords take advantage of high demand for housing.
As wells run dry or prices decrease, some companies may move on to more profitable ventures, and some who remain face uncertain futures as they try to adapt to a post-boom economy. However, many boomtown veterans learn to weather the cyclical nature of petroleum fortunes, and many modern-day boomtowns mature into vibrant communities with diverse economies. The following cities represent just a few of the important oil and gas centers in the U.S.
Population Growth Rates
|2020||2022 (est.)||% change|
|Baton Rouge, LA||870,569||873,060||+0.29%|
|Houston-Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX||7,122,240||7,340,118||+3.06%|
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
The cities Midland and Odessa are located in the heart of West Texas. Here, you’ll find yourself amid the Permian Basin, the largest oil-producing region in the United States.
The basin spans over 75,000 square miles and hosts several major oil fields such as the Spraberry and Wolfcamp Shale. The Midland-Odessa area has a number of refineries as well.
- Midland, TX City Website
- Odessa, TX City Website
- Midland & Odessa Texas Travel and Vacation Guide
- Things to do in Midland/Odessa
Casper, Wyoming sits in the heart of the Cowboy State and serves as a hub for the energy industry.
The city is surrounded by the rich resources of the Powder River Basin, which contains significant coal, crude oil, and natural gas reserves. With major oil fields like Teapot Dome nearby, Casper is an important location for extraction and production.
The city is also home to several refineries that process crude oil and natural gas into valuable products.
Nestled in southern Louisiana, Lafayette is a city with deep roots in the energy sector. Primarily focused on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, this area offers a unique perspective on oil production.
Besides offshore drilling, you’ll also find numerous refineries and petrochemical plants in the region, making Lafayette an important player in the conversion of raw materials into usable goods.
Bismarck, North Dakota is at the center of the Bakken Shale formation. This area has experienced a significant boom in oil production since the late 2000s.
The Bakken Shale is a vast oil and natural gas reserve spanning across North Dakota, Montana, and parts of Canada. As one of the largest onshore oil reserves in the United States, it has transformed Bismarck and surrounding areas into a bustling hub for the energy industry.
Carlsbad, New Mexico is in the southeastern part of the state, and it plays a pivotal role in the oil and gas industry. The city is strategically located within the Delaware Basin, a prolific sub-basin of the Permian Basin.
This region is rich in oil and natural gas reserves and contains numerous active drilling sites. The famous Bone Spring and Wolfcamp shale plays can be found here, which contributes significantly to the area’s production.
Carlsbad’s local refineries and other energy-related industries not only process hydrocarbons, but also support the community’s economy.
- Carlsbad, NM City Website
- Carlsbad, New Mexico Tourism, Travel, and Vacation Guide
- City of Carlsbad Employment Opportunities
Other Key Cities for Oil and Gas
When you think of the oil and gas industry, you might imagine large oil fields and drilling rigs in remote locations.
However, many professionals in this industry actually live in major and mid-sized metropolitan areas. This is where the industry flourishes, and where businesses and communities have grown to support this vital sector of the economy.
If you’re considering a career in oil and gas, or simply curious about the industry, let’s look at a few key cities and their relevance to the petroleum industry.
Houston, Texas is often hailed as the “Energy Capital of the World,” and for a good reason. Houston is home to many Fortune 500 companies in the energy sector, making it an epicenter for innovation, research, and operations.
The city offers a thriving economic landscape that allows professionals in the oil and gas industry to excel. Whether you’re an engineer, geologist, or business executive, Houston provides a wealth of opportunities for growth.
Nestled right next to the Rocky Mountains, Denver, Colorado has become an essential location for oil and gas professionals. The city is at the heart of several major oil and natural gas basins, which has fostered a booming energy community in the area.
Denver is also home to numerous oil and gas companies, offering plenty of career and growth opportunities for professionals across the industry spectrum.
Tulsa, Oklahoma is another city with deep roots in the petroleum industry. Historically known as the “Oil Capital of the World,” Tulsa’s rich history in energy production continues today, with a focus on both traditional fossil fuels and renewable energy sources.
With a skilled workforce and diverse industry expertise, Tulsa offers a welcoming environment for oil and gas professionals seeking opportunities in this thriving industry.
Baton Rouge, LA
Baton Rouge, Louisiana is not only the state capital but also a key city in the oil and gas industry. The city’s strategic location along the Mississippi River makes it an important center for the transportation and refining of petroleum products.
Baton Rouge is home to several major refineries and chemical facilities, offering numerous opportunities for professionals in the oil and gas sector.
Bakersfield, California is located at the heart of California’s fertile Central Valley, which is home to some of the most significant oil and gas reservoirs in the United States.
The city has a long history of petroleum production, with operations dating back to the 1890s. Bakersfield continues to be a significant player in the industry and offers various opportunities for professionals in the field.
- Bakersfield, CA City Website
- Official Bakersfield Travel Resource
- Things to do in Bakersfield
- Employment Development Department (EDD)
Beyond the U.S.: Explore a World of Opportunities in the Oil and Gas Industry
If you’re a professional in the oil and gas industry, the world is your oyster! The opportunity to work internationally is real, and it’s waiting for you to seize it.
Did you know that the oil and gas industry has major petroleum centers outside the U.S.? Places like Dubai, Jakarta, and Calgary are just a few examples of cities where you can find thriving energy hubs. These bustling cities offer not only job opportunities, but also a chance to immerse yourself in new cultures and experiences.
Imagine waking up every day to the beautiful skyline of Dubai or experiencing the rich history of Jakarta.
Working internationally can be incredibly rewarding for your career, too. You’ll have access to a global network of professionals who share your passion for the industry, and you’ll get invaluable experiences that will help you grow both personally and professionally. Not only that, but being exposed to different methods and approaches within the oil and gas sector will make you a well-rounded professional with a broader perspective on the industry.
The oil and gas industry is vast, and there’s a world of opportunity waiting for you outside the U.S.