Mr. Collum worked as a landman, tracking the owners of oil and gas trapped in rock layers thousands of feet beneath the earth’s surface and getting their signatures, a job about as old as the American petroleum industry.
He started around 2006, a couple of years before the shale boom took off and pushed prices for drilling rights in East Texas to more than $15,000 an acre from around $250. Successful landmen, racing to knock on doors ahead of rivals, earned six-figure incomes.
“It was kind of like the Wild, Wild West,” said Mr. Collum, 39 years old. His predecessors in the field included former President George W. Bush and Aubrey McClendon, the late fracking pioneer who co-founded Chesapeake Energy Corp.
These days, the jobs are going dry. Landmen, after riding the highs of the boom, face weakened demand for fossil fuels and investor indifference to shale companies after years of poor returns. Instead of oil and gas fields, some landmen are securing wind and solar fields, spots where the sun shines brightest and the wind blows hardest.
Read More: Landmen Who Once Staked Claims for Oil and Gas Now Hunt Wind and Sun