Hoping for the same success, D/FW Airport has copied Spinks' minimum-bid requirements: a 25 percent take on all gas royalties for the airport and a one-time cash bonus of at least $2,000 per acre.
The winning Spinks bid, by Fort Worth producer Four Sevens, included a 27.5 percent cut and a $4,000-per-acre bonus for the right to drill there.
"The market is doing so well that when they put it out to bid, the winner came in at over double per acre," Terrell said.
Because of D/FW Airport's size, that deal could be lucrative for both the airport and the drilling company, said Doug Rademaker, director of engineering for the city of Fort Worth, who is overseeing the Spinks drilling.
"I think they're going to have a lot of interest just because of the number of acres they have," Rademaker said. "It's going to be great for whoever gets the D/FW deal."
D/FW plans to put out its request for proposals to selected candidates by March or April, Terrell said. He hopes to award the deal to a drilling company by midsummer.
It's about half a year later than Terrell had hoped for, but he's not worried.
"While we are moving forward at a steady pace, we are not doing it hastily," Terrell said. "We are doing it thoughtfully."
And travelers better get used to seeing rigs as the drive into the terminals.
"These wells will have a very long life," Adams said. Many last 20 to 30 years.
But the airport will try to keep visible gas rigs to a minimum, Terrell said. D/FW is looking to hire a land planner to coordinate where the wells can go, so that some of the land can still be developed for other uses such as warehouses and retail.
D/FW and Spinks are not the only airports dealing with rigs on their land.
Several dozen wells recently finished or are about to start under Fort Worth's two other airports, Alliance and Meacham. But Fort Worth developer Hillwood, which donated the land for Alliance Airport two decades ago, kept the mineral rights.
Airports in Oklahoma City and Tulsa are drilling for oil, said Pam Shephard, spokeswoman for Airports Council International-North America.
"Airports that do have those resources have developed them," she said, "but it's pretty rare."
The largest airport drilling for oil and gas is probably Denver Airport, which has worked hard in the past five years to boost nonairline revenue after its largest tenant, United Airlines, filed for bankruptcy.
Since it opened 10 years ago, Denver has brought in about $1.7 million a year from drilling on its 33,000 acres.
"Every airport in the U.S. is trying to figure out a way to find more nonairline revenue, and this is a great way to do it," said Pete Gingras, a former property manager for American Airlines who is now property officer at Denver Airport. "It's not just wildcat drilling. It's very, very scientific."
Other airports would love to boost their nonairline revenue as Denver has, but they're limited by what's below them, said Midkiff, the JP Morgan Chase consultant.
"You have to be in an area where someone thinks there's oil and gas under that airport," he said. "And you do have to have large tracts of land. That entices the big boys to come play there."
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