The Eagle Ford shale play is located in south Texas, and stretches northeast from the Mexican border 400 miles to east Texas. Its width is about 50 miles, and depths of production vary between 4,000 and 14,000 feet. It is best known for its production of oil, condensate, natural gas liquids, and wet and dry gas.
Because hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling have been so successful, Eagle Ford has played a significant role in the economic development and job growth of the counties directly affected by its presence, as well as the current boom the oil and gas industry is enjoying.
Even though natural gas prices are currently low and the infrastructure does not have the capacity to support the amount of gas in the shale, the Eagle Ford region has a high liquid yield to compensate. Since the prices of oil, condensate, and natural gas liquids have risen, low natural gas prices do not adversely affect well economics.
The first successful recovery of Eagle Ford resources is credited to Petrohawk Energy. In 2008, they used a horizontal well to produce more than 7.6 mmcfd. Before that time, most of Eagle Ford’s resources were considered too expensive to make their retrieval financially beneficial. Once horizontal drilling became more widespread, many companies were able to stake claims in the area and begin benefiting from the wealth available in the shale play.
Fracking has grabbed a lot of attention since it began because of the potential environmental impact the process may have. The federal and state governments are not the only entities concerned over this. Fracking has been banned in many countries in Europe, as well. The oil and gas industry has responded to these concerns by working to make the drilling process and the waste disposal more environmentally responsible. In particular, they are now focusing on the reduction of contamination that occurs from the oil-based drilling fluids and cuttings.
Companies in Eagle Ford have discovered ways to cut down on potential adverse effects to the area using water-based fluids rather than the conventional alternatives. This benefits the operators as well as the farmers and others in the region. With water-based fluids, they no longer have to cut profits with expensive hydrocarbon bioremediation, which is necessary with oil based mud.
With the innovations surrounding water-based mud, operators are seeing better performance with the benefit of easy disposal. Local landowners have not been as resistant to operators disposing of water-based mud at the well site.
In addition, because of the prolonged drought conditions existing in Texas and the surrounding states, oil and gas companies have begun using recycled water. Companies with horizontal wells have found that the lack of water resources has raised the costs of fracking considerably, but using reclaimed water has the potential to save companies the cost of having the water shipped in, as well as being much more environmentally friendly.
Innovations such as these drive up the profits from oil production in the Eagle Ford shale play and create goodwill between oil companies, government entities, and environmentalists. They also ensure the continued growth of horizontal drilling and fracking practices in shale plays across the country, benefiting the nation’s economy and the future production of natural energy resources.