On Wednesday, during his COVID-19 press conference, Governor Mark Gordon announced that the last active oil rig in the state was closed Tuesday. This marks only the second time since 1884 that Wyoming has had no active drilling rigs in the state, according to Gordon.
Just as the state’s rig count drops to zero, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming (PAW), the largest and oldest petroleum industry trade association in the state, released its annual Facts and Figures for 2019, and the information highlights the tremendous importance of the oil and gas industry to local economies.
Of Wyoming’s 23 counties, all but Teton and Platte counties produce oil and gas in some measure. In fact, last year alone, Wyoming’s petroleum industry directly employed over 19,000 people with an annual payroll of nearly $1.12 billion, per PAW data. Additionally, crude oil and natural gas production paid nearly $473 million in severance taxes, about 66% of all the severance taxes paid by minerals produced in 2019.
The importance of oil and gas has increased dramatically with the decline of coal. According to the Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS), in 2008 Wyoming set a record for coal mined in a year, with 466.3 metric tons extracted, the majority of that from Campbell County. By 2019, that figure had plummeted to 277 metric tons.
As coal’s importance decreases, the importance of oil and gas continues to increase, figures suggest.
The Cowboy State ranked eighth in the nation for production of crude oil and natural gas, with Converse County being the state’s largest crude oil producer, followed by Campbell and Laramie counties.
The decline in oil and gas production resulting from the recent price war and the COVID-19 shutdown is an area for concern to many. In 2015, there were an average of 54 oil and gas rigs working in the state in any given month, per recent PAW data. That number dropped to 11 in 2017 but rebounded to an average of 33 working rigs in 2019.
PAW numbers estimate that there are 100 jobs associated with each working rig in the state.
Overall, 40% of the property taxes in the state were paid by the oil and gas industry in 2019, according to PAW figures. In Campbell County, 27.83% of all properties assessed for taxation were involved in production or distribution of crude oil or natural gas.
Also, in 2019, oil and natural gas producers contributed $1.67 billion to state and local governments through taxes and royalty payments, per the same data. That equates to $2,882 in direct payments for government services to every person living in Wyoming. The industry employed more than 19,000 people, with total wages of nearly $1.12 billion.
Pete Obermuller, president of the PAW, said in an Aug. 5 press release accompanying the figures that it is critical for people to recognize the contributions of the oil and gas industries in Wyoming, given the recent downturn.
“These numbers show what most of us already know,” Obermuller said. “Wyoming thrives when industry succeeds.”
He pointed out that, in education alone, oil and gas contributions sent about 43,000 children to school last year.
As the data suggests, Wyoming is heavily dependent on a thriving minerals industry, the effects of which will directly impact state and local services.