The Alpine High Effect: The Booming Town of Balmorhea

News

In the tiny town of Balmorhea, the area saw itself in the spotlight thanks to a groundbreaking discovery. 

Back in 2016, Apache Corporation discovered a rich oil reserve that created headlines across the state, some calling it the future boom of Balmorhea. 

Patricio Brijalba has lived in Balmorhea his entire life, being a part of many booms and busts. 

“We had one active pump jack. I said, ‘there’s not any oil in this area,'” said Brijalba. 

Apache labeled the oil reserve “Alpine High”. It encompasses the southwest corner of the Permian Basin, including the southern half of Reeves County. 

According to a press release from Apache, they estimate “hydrocarbons in place on its acreage position are 75 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of rich gas (more than 1,300 British Thermal Units) and 3 billion barrels of oil in the Barnett and Woodford formations alone.”

Brijalba says the population of around 500 people were in shock. 

“I think we were caught off guard, because we don’t have the services for them,” said Brijalba. 

But did that boom ever come to fruition in Balmorhea? 

Since Apache set up shop, the Alderman says his R-V park and shaved ice stand have thrived. 

“Businesses here: the little grocery (convenience store), restaurants have plenty of business,” said Brijalba. 

A statement that was reaffirmed at La Cueva De Oso Restaurant. 

“I would say at lunch time that business has probably doubled in the amount of customers that come in at once,” said Co-owner and cook Joel Madrid II. 

Madrid says his family’s Mexican style joint used to rely heavily on tourists visiting the Balmorhea State Park. 

“Now, you actually see people. What we call town. Before, you know, it was always really dead,” said Madrid. 

Madrid says his family also owns a motel and R-V park, which he says are quickly scooped up by oil field workers. 

“We got a list of people that call wanting spots,” said Madrid.

Less than a mile away, a recently opened laundromat is providing residents and oil field workers a closer place to wash their clothes. 

“We had to either go to Pecos or Fort Stockton, you know, you had to drive a minimum of like 35 miles to get to the nearest place to go do laundry,” said Linen Fresh Laundromat employee Filena Resendez. 

Resendez and her family are a part of that growth from the oil boom. They moved to Balmorhea from East Texas three years ago. 

Since then, Resendez has seen Apache’s impact on the community first-hand. 

“The fact that they were closed for all the repairs this last summer, it would have seriously hurt this community,” said Resendez. 

Resendez is talking about the closure of the Balmorhea State Park Pool. The big tourist attraction was closed for most of 2018 and still going through repairs in February. 

“Because there was all of these oil field workers coming in at the same time, it kept things open for a lot of people,” said Resendez. 

Along with supplying jobs and business, Brijalba says the city’s budget has also grown. 

City of Balmorhea – Sales Tax Revenue Summary: 

2016 – Total: $73,374.53 

2017 – Total: $94,364.57

2018 – Total: $88,562.86 

In addition, the Apache Corporation continues to step in, giving hefty donations to the school district and fire department, along with a $1 million donation to the state park to help with pool repairs. 

However, Brijalba says the city can only grow so much, which means it will always be the small town he knows and loves. 

“We probably won’t have anymore land to expand, so our community is small and will remain small,” said Brijalba. 

Brijalba says the city council plans to discuss the future of the water system with the constant growth in business. 


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