Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has proven to be one of the most successful ways of retrieving natural gas reserves within shale. Nine of every ten natural gas wells in the United States use fracking to access the deposits. Several shale plays in the Unites States are currently producing natural gas at an unprecedented rate. Of these, the Eagle Ford shale play is considered one of the most promising.
The Eagle Ford shale is an area beneath South Texas that extends 400 miles in length and 50 miles in width. The plentiful liquids and low drilling costs give this region the potential to be one of the most productive natural gas reserves in the nation. Projections far exceed any other shale play, primarily because of the heavy liquids the area contains. It is one of the only regions that have high levels of oil as well as both wet and dry gas. Rapid development is likely in this type of geological domain.
Eagle Ford has several advantages over the other shale plays. One is an advantage in its proximity to many of the North American energy markets, which are located in or near Texas. The region also already has an extensive infrastructure with more proposed and easy access to systems already in place for processing and shipping. These favorable conditions have influenced the projections and estimates for future production.
Already, growth in the Eagle Ford has been exceptional. From the beginning of the exploration and production in the area five years ago, the gas production in the Eagle Ford shale has gone from almost nothing to about 500,000 barrels per day. Bentek, an energy research firm, predicts that output is likely to grow from the current level to at least 800,000 barrels per day in the next three or four years.
Since most of the drilling has targeted the portions of the region that are more favorable for oil rather than natural gas, the fact that it accounts for around five percent of the United States’ total onshore natural gas production in the Lower 48 states is significant. The size of the Eagle Ford region offers a promising future to the natural gas industry in Texas.
What makes all these figures even more impressive is that only about 60 percent of the natural gas production that comes from the Eagle Ford region comes from wells that target the areas of the play that are most likely to produce that resource. The other 40 percent of the natural gas production is almost what could be called incidental, because this has resulted from wells aimed at producing oil and liquids. All of these factors have resulted in extremely favorable predictions for the oil and gas companies who have invested their resources extensively in Eagle Ford.
Even the most advanced of the current methods for capturing and processing natural gas are not necessarily efficient options, so many companies are working to create better methods. More pipeline and other infrastructures to process and ship natural gas are also necessary. Once these are in place, expectations for the natural gas output from Eagle Ford may increase rapidly, resulting in an even greater output for Eagle Ford, as well as other shale regions in the country.