The Eagle Ford Shale Play
The Eagle Ford Shale is a relatively new unconventional oil and gas play stretching across South Texas from Webb county in the West and Brazos county in the Northeast. The heart of oil production in the Eagle Ford Shale currently comes from the productive area within Karnes County, Webb county produces the most gas, although this may evolve as gas production from the Eagle Ford Shale becomes more important part of the South Texas economy. Plans to export natural gas via pipeline to Mexico and LNG export on the Gulf Coast are expected to increase the total demand for natural gas from the Eagle Ford shale in the future.
Due to the enormous area encompassed across South Texas by the Eagle Ford shale, multiple cities have risen up to claim their unofficial roles to support the development of the play.
Corpus Christi, with its position on the Gulf of Mexico and the East side of South Texas has become the unofficial downstream home of Eagle Ford crude oils. The existing refining base has been tasked with retooling much of its production line from foreign imported oils to light sweet Eagle Ford shale oil. Victoria and Alice have also been tasked as supporting towns in that area for the upstream and refining areas.
San Antonio, located in the center of the Eagle Ford, has worked to become the unofficial capital of South Texas and of the upstream industry Eagle Ford. Many operators and service companies have opened offices directly within San Antonio to service the Eagle Ford Shale. San Antonio is a large and expanding city, additionally, many service company yards are located in the far rural reaches an hour or more from San Antonio including: Cuero, Hondo, Seguin, Pleasanton, Jourdanton, Pearsall, Kenedy, and Karnes City.
Other important cities include the financial powerhouse Houston 200 miles to the East of San Antonio. On the West side of the Eagle Ford Shale include the South Texas towns of Cotulla, Laredo, Crystal City, and Carrizo Springs, which have all seen an influx of extra work due to the development of the Eagle Ford Shale.
Eagle Ford Oil and Gas Well maps from the Texas Rail Road Commission
At its peak, around 270 South Texas rigs were drilling the Eagle Ford to for oil and gas. Today that number has dropped significantly due to market factors, however this may change as the country’s thirst for energy remains unabated despite any drop in prices. As an unconventional oil and gas play, the Eagle Ford shale is a high demand target for increased drilling when prices and demand for new sources of energy do rise. When the play is described as “unconventional” this means that economic production of oil/gas is not possible without stimulation such as fracturing, acid stimulation, and steam injection. A typical completion is also about 2 miles deep with 1 mile lateral length. The Eagle Ford shale is so thick that multiple productive laterals can be stacked on top of each other.
Technology has been a major driver within the ongoing development of the Eagle Ford shale. Year over year the mean initial production from Eagle Ford wells has been increasing due to the improvements in the completions technology within the producing wells. Furthermore, reserves per well as well as the recovery factors have also been steadily increasing year over year. While it used to be accepted that all shale plays had abysmally low recovery factors, the state of the art for an Eagle Ford shale development now has a recovery factor approaching that of primary production from a classic conventional black oil reservoir.
South Texas Future
While it is hard to say exactly what will happen to the Eagle Ford and when, there are a few trends that are easy to point out that should continue. The drive for more technology and business to improve the economics will make the Eagle Ford continue to be a premier play to drill and produce. San Antonio and other South Texas cities will continued asked to supply more talent and training to support the oil and gas industry throughout the Eagle Ford shale. The economy of South Texas will continue to enjoy the revenue and taxes from the oil and gas production from the Eagle Ford’s prolific wells.
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