PORT ARTHUR — A Houston-based oil and gas company believes there is black gold 11,800 feet below ground near 46th Street and state Highway 73, and the city of Port Arthur could benefit from that black gold.

Tri-C Resources Inc., which specializes in oil and gas exploration, has requested a drilling permit from the city of Port Arthur for an exploratory well between Central Baptist Church and FivePoint Credit Union on Highway 73. The Port Arthur City Council held a public hearing Friday to allow the public to comment on the drilling request.

Central Baptist owns the property on which the proposed drilling site sits, said Paul Brown, senior planner for the city. And the bottom of the drilling hole would be about 200 feet from the Walmart on Twin City Highway but 11,800 feet deep.

If oil is found, the company would remove the drilling rig and install capturing tanks that would connect to a pipeline, Brown said.

To which refinery that pipeline connects depends on which pipeline company offers the best deal, said Benjamin Balagia, representative from Tri-C Resources, during the public hearing.

Balagia said the company expected a successful drill because the proposed site was adjacent to another well that had struck clean oil.

“If there’s any down there, it is enough to justify a pipeline and keep a smile on your face,” Balagia said.

During his 11 years as an employee of the city, Brown has seen about half a dozen drilling permits, and he does not know of any dry wells, he said.

And if oil is found, the city stands to benefit from that discovery, Balagia said. The city and various other property owners in addition to Central own the mineral rights for that land. The lease with the city encompasses about 22 acres, he said.

The estimated drilling time was 30 days, barring any equipment malfunctions or any other unforeseen circumstances, Balagia said.

The proposed drilling site is less than 700 feet from the church, so Tri-C Resources had to get permission from Central Baptist before drilling could begin, which it did, Brown said.

In fact, the company has met all of the requirements established by the city’s ordinance on oil and gas drilling, Brown said.

Tri-C Resources must pay a $1,500 filing fee for the drilling permit; a $25,000 surety bond; and a $450,000 bond as part of a heavy haul permit in case 46th Street is damaged during and after the construction of the well, Brown said. All of these requirements have been outlined by the city ordinance.

The company has also received approval from the properties within 400 feet of the proposed drilling site, Balagia said.

There are no residences near the potential drilling site, Brown said. The closest residence is an apartment complex on the other side of Highway 73.

Brown said he had not heard of any opposition to the requested drilling permit, and another public hearing had been held by the Planning and Zoning Commission. The commission recommended the permit be approved, he said.

The only other concern uttered by the council was the possible damage to 46th Street, which is already in bad shape, said District 6 Councilman Robert Williamson.

The $450,000 bond only covers complete repairs to about two blocks of the road, Brown said, and that was what the Public Works Department had suggested.

“If it turns out the road is completely destroyed, we cannot obligate them for anymore money,” said Ross Blackketter, director of public works. “If we decide to do the rest of the road, that’s on us.”

 Sourced from Brooke Crum The Port Arthur News December 5, 2012