Motley Fool
Better Know an Energy Play: Eagle Ford

Thursday, December 27, 2012

To help Foolish investors better understand the oil and gas boom in the United States, we are putting together a series of articles focusing on the major energy plays in the lower 48. Today, we'll take a look at the Eagle Ford.

The Eagle Ford Shale swoops across southern Texas from the Mexico border up into East Texas. Its prime oil window is found in the northernmost strip of that band, followed next by a strip that produces mostly condensate, and finally a region that produces mostly dry gas.

The Eagle Ford offers two distinct advantages from a geological perspective. First is its distinct banding pattern. The prices of our commodities fluctuate from year to year, but the clear delineation in the Eagle Ford allows producers to easily pick up their rigs and move to the most lucrative window at any given time, provided they have acreage to move to.

Second, the pay zone in the Eagle Ford is thicker than the average shale play, with a higher than usual percentage of carbonate material.

Geology doesn't lie. According to the Texas Railroad Commission, last year the shale produced 914 million cubic feet of natural gas per day and 119,353 barrels of oil per day. So far this year, the gas number is down slightly to 880 mmcf per day, but the oil number has risen significantly to 297,079 bpd through August. That's an average number, though, and the commission reported that July's production was more than 310,000 barrels per day.

Energy consultancy Bentek Energy estimates that crude oil and condensate production taken together reached more than 700,000 barrels per day in September, and could reach as high as 1.6 million bpd by 2016. Those are impressive numbers, so let's take a look at who is making the most of that production.

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