POTTSBORO — The smell of grease and diesel exhaust greet the nostrils immediately upon exiting a vehicle at Payson Petroleum’s Crowe No. 1 oil rig, located south of Pottsboro. For some with a blue-collar background, it brings back memories of callused hands and long days — it smells like the past. But for a group of students from the University of Tulsa who visited the rig last Thursday, it smelled like their future.

POTTSBORO — The smell of grease and diesel exhaust greet the nostrils immediately upon exiting a vehicle at Payson Petroleum’s Crowe No. 1 oil rig, located south of Pottsboro. For some with a blue-collar background, it brings back memories of callused hands and long days — it smells like the past. But for a group of students from the University of Tulsa who visited the rig last Thursday, it smelled like their future.


For junior Carly Shanklin, maybe it was a little of both.


"My grandfather was a production engineer who graduated from TU," she said. "He used to go out to sites like this and just sleep in his truck and stay out here all the time. So after I graduate, I want to be on a rig."


Shanklin was one of a contingent of students from the McDougall School of Petroleum Engineering, sent three hours south by school administrators to get some real-world context to their studies.


"We want to just kind of teach the next generation," said Payson CEO Matt Griffin. "It’s one thing to read it in a textbook; it’s another thing to come out and see it."


Griffin explained that the energy industry is once again expanding in Grayson County and the surrounding areas, thanks in large part to leaps in technology that allow companies to drill deeper, drill directionally and break up deep rock formations through hydraulic fracturing.


"You’ve seen a revitalization of oil and gas here in Grayson County," said Griffin. "And you’re going to keep seeing an increase in that. Some of these wells are doing fantastic numbers up here."


Data from the Texas Railroad Commission, which permits drilling in the state, shows that applications for wells in the county have increased fourfold over the last decade. The commission is on pace to receive 47 applications for 2013, the largest number in Grayson County since 1986.


"Thee or four years ago, it started picking back up as far as the (industry’s) interest level," Griffin said. "What I think you’re going to see in the next two to three years is companies drilling a lot of new well bores. There’s a lot of oil still left in Grayson."


When the Crowe well is complete, the borehole will stretch more than two miles underground, intersecting as many as 10 different oil-bearing formations, said Griffin. He explained that such a depth nearly triples the cost of drilling, but it’s necessary in the region due to the scattered nature of local oil plays. It was that feature of the Pottsboro well — the depth — that particularly interested University of Tulsa officials.


Freshman Julian Atuguba, a native of Cameroon whose father is involved in the oil industry, said the rig tour was a great opportunity to see concepts in three dimensions.


"We’re in an introduction to petro engineering class, and this is a chance to see what goes on in the field," he said. "This is what we want to do in the future, so it is giving us experience."


His Ghanaian companion Karl KiAm, attending TU on an international scholarship, said the day was particularly helpful in providing direction for his studies.


"I want to work in the field, but I don’t know doing what exactly yet," KiAm explained. "Hopefully this will help me decide; I want to get some experience here before I go back home."


The McDougall School includes students from more than 45 different countries, said Tulsa’s Center for Reservoir Studies Director Mohan Kelkar. He said the trip to Texas was the worth the drive.


"What you will find in Oklahoma is often older rigs doing more conventional (shallow) drilling," he said. "We want our students to see modern rigs and what they do. It’s very instructional for the kids; it really helps them understand how drilling is done. It’s really the highlight of that class."