Slocomb residents, oil drillers hope third time's a charm

Bobby Peel looks over 80 acres of his family's land in hopes oil drillers will find black gold.
Bobby Peel looks over 80 acres of his family's land in hopes oil drillers will find black gold.

Reporter: Melissa McKinney

SLOCOMB, AL (WSFA) -- "Well, I expect that they're going to find oil this time. I've always believed it's here," says Bobby Peel.

Bobby Peel isn't new to the idea of oil in his hometown. Back in the mid-1980s, his land was used for drilling.

It was the second and most recent attempt by oil entities to find buried treasure in Slocomb.

"I was real excited and apprehensive. But we come up dry," says Peel.

Now decades later, Peel is anxious and ready again.  He's leasing 400 acres of land for drilling, along with nearly 200 other families who are doing the same thing.

It was on Peel's property nearly 25 years ago where oil drillers thought they'd strike it rich. And now years later, they're hoping to do the same, by starting on his land.

"I want to see 200 barrels a day right at this plot of land," says Peel.

And that's only from one or two wells. But the hope is for dozens more, which could be a lofty goal.  Alabama is only a moderate producer of oil ranking 16th in the country--contributing about 600,000 barrels per month.  That's not even 2% of what a state like Texas produces.

However the odds aren't stopping Don Marshall of BHM Minerals--the company that's already leased more than 14,000 acres of land from Slocomb to the Florida line.

"I think Slocomb, Alabama is sitting on top of the next boom for the state of Alabama," says Marshall.

After months of little activity and an economic crunch on the oil business, Slocomb residents wondered if the project was still a go. Marshall says drilling on two wells should start in April.

"We're just waiting to get the rig down here and waiting to get our permit, and when we get all that we'll be in place and ready to go."

If successful, the company would then branch out onto other leased land. But apart from a skyline of oil rigs, striking it rich in Slocomb could bring more business, recognition, and potentially six jobs per oil well.

"[We] gotta get that oil well here first, and get it pumping to see what it would be like!" says landowner, Joyce Tew.

With a 12% return on investment, landowners could be out to get rich, but most just want their town to prosper.

"All the money that would come in naturally would help the families in this area," says Tew.

It's money drillers say the city could see just 90 days after drilling begins.

"That, we hope would have a significant economic impact to further our agenda here to do better things for Slocomb," says Slocomb Mayor, Rob Hinson.

It could be better things for Slocomb and beyond.

"It would improve Geneva county 100%," says Peel.

It's something Peel and many others want to see, and a big dream for this small town.