McALLEN, RGV – Energy production in the Burgos Basin of northern Mexico will be eight times bigger than that of Eagle Ford Shale, says Del Mar College President Mark Escamilla.

Escamilla gets a lot of information on what is happening in the oil and gas sector from officials at the Port of Corpus Christi and executives working in the 20-county Eagle Ford Shale region of South Texas.

Asked how big Burgos Basin is going to be, Escamilla said: “It is eight times bigger than Eagle Ford Shale. It is an opportunity that will overwhelm the already stressed workforce.”

Escamilla said South Texas needs to play its part in helping Mexico prepare for a deregulated energy industry. A great deal of foreign investment in exploration and extraction of oil and gas reserves is predicted now that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has signed into law legislation breaking Pemex’s monopoly of the industry.

“There will be opportunities for us to train the technicians from Mexico or for us to train Americans to go down to Mexico. It is going to be an imperative. It is going to be one of our greatest opportunities for decades to come. I think the stability and the opportunities it is going to bring for citizens on both sides of the border will be unparalleled. We have never seen anything like it,” Escamilla said.

Escamilla said he had read about South Texas College’s recently signed Memorandum of Understanding with Universidad Tecnológica de Gutiérrez Zamora of Veracruz, which could see Mexican oil and gas workers trained at STC. “The entire country learns from Shirley. If people are not paying attention to what South Texas College is doing, they need to,” Escamilla said, referring to STC President Shirley Reed.

Del Mar College caters mainly for students from five counties along the Coastal Bend – Nueces, San Patricio, Aransas, Kleberg and Kenedy. It has 10,000 credit students and 16,000 non-credit students. Escamilla said he and other administrators from the Guardian are watching Mexico’s energy reforms with great interest. “There is so much going on. It is probably too much to bite off at once,” he said.

The Guardian interviewed Escamilla at the McAllen Convention Center after his participation in a panel discussion titled “Bridging Opportunities from Cradle to Career.” The discussion, which was hosted by Rio Grande Valley Partnership President and CEO Julian Alvarez, was part of a two-day conference hosted by the Texas Lyceum. During the discussion, Escamilla said Del Mar College is struggling to keep up with industry’s demands for a better trained workforce. The driving force, he said, was Eagle Ford Shale.

According to a study commissioned by the Natural Gas Alliance that was carried out by UT-San Antonio, Eagle Ford Shale has had an economic impact worth $61 billion in a 20-county region of South Texas. The study found it has supported 116,000 jobs.

If that has been the impact of Eagle Ford Shale has had, just imagine what oil and gas production in Burgos Basin will do, Escamilla told the Guardian.

“We can barely keep up. The stress on our workforce is like nothing we have seen. Thousands of new jobs are being created. In fact, much of our workforce in the Corpus Christi area for Eagle Ford Shale is coming from the Rio Grande Valley. Valley workers are moving to Laredo as well for work in Eagle Ford. They are moving all through the Eagle Ford area. They are renting apartments for right now but they will be buying homes at some point soon,” Escamilla said.

Escamilla pointed out that as recently as 2010 the state Legislature was cutting funding to Del Mar College by 25 percent. Now, he said, because of Eagle Ford Shale, things are moving in an upward trajectory.

“Nueces County is experiencing unprecedented investment. Currently the numbers are $18 billion in new and expanded capabilities. The project is $25 to $30 billion, maybe even as high as $50 billion,” Escamilla said. He said he gets this information from Port of Corpus Christi directors.

Asked what the investment is in, Escamilla citied, by way of an example, steel mills coming in from China and Austria. “The Chinese are producing drilling pipes and casing. The Austrians are producing iron ore briquettes that are then shipped back to Austria.”

Escamilla predicted liquefied natural gas is “going to be huge” for the Coastal Bend region. “Companies like Oxy and Cheniere are moving in. Cheniere has an $11 billion LNG plant coming in. They will be piping all the natural gas out of the oilfields, liquefying it, putting it on ships and transporting it all over the world. I went to see the Sabine Pass folks. Much of their natural gas supply has already been purchased and they have not even built out the plant. A big portion of it is being sold to Asian countries such as Japan. They are selling product when there are no facilities yet. That is the kind of investment and infrastructure that is coming our way.”

Asked how many new jobs will be created in the Coastal Bend area as a result of this new investment, Escamilla said: “We have heard anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 workers to build out the infrastructure. The number of sustained jobs will be in the hundreds. And, these are well paid jobs that can sustain families with a very comfortable lifestyle.”

Escamilla pointed out that back in the 1970s, Corpus Christi was about the same size as Austin. Since then, Corpus Christi’s growth has been tiny, he said, in comparison to Austin, which has soared. “It was like a wet blanket was put on top of us.”

Escamilla said data from former State Demographer Steve Murdock shows Corpus Christi’s population hovering at about 300,000. However, he said local indicators are predicting major growth. “We are going to double our population in the next decade or decade and a half. Much of it is because of Eagle Ford Shale and the associated investment coming in. You are talking about thousands of jobs to build it and hundreds of sustained jobs. Those jobs bring in hundreds of families and so the dominoes fall. Many of the companies are not here yet. If we just do 30 percent it is going to have a dramatic effect. Our multi-housing units are at 100 percent occupancy. We have had 15 new hotels go up in Corpus Christi in the past couple of years. We watch those indicators. We are building 1,500 homes a year now. It is very positive.”