A Historical Overview of the Eagle Ford Basin
Take a look at the history of the Eagle Ford basin, from its production at inception to the activity we see today.
October 4, 2023
Located in South Texas, the Eagle Ford basin plays a significant role in the American energy landscape. Spanning 50 miles wide and 400 miles long, this geologic formation has significantly influenced the trajectory of oil and gas exploration and production in the United States. The Eagle Ford shale can be divided into two parts: a northern region, rich in oil, and a southern region, abundant in natural gas. The Eagle Ford shale takes its name from the town of Eagle Ford, Texas where the shale outcrops at the surface in clay form.
In the early years of the basin's development, the prevailing wisdom focused on extracting natural gas, rather than oil. It was thought that because natural gas molecules are smaller and have less difficulty squeezing through lower permeability rock they should be easier to produce. The inception of the Eagle Ford Basin's prominence can be traced back to 2008 when Petrohawk Energy successfully drilled the exploratory well, “STS #241-1H”, located in La Salle County, Texas. The wells initial production peaked at more than 7.6 million cubic feet of gas per day (mmcfepd). This wildcatter well marked the turning point of the Eagle Ford shale era, and gave rise to a period characterized by heightened exploration and prolific hydrocarbon production. With the development and quick adoption of fracking, Petrohawk and other producers in this play soon realized that the production of oil from the Eagle Ford basin would not be as difficult as initially feared.
By 2010, the number of drilling permits issued surpassed 1,000; by 2012, this figure grew to nearly 4,000. At its peak, the Eagle Ford basin was producing more than 1.5 million barrels of oil per day and has been in a controlled decline since. As of September 2023, daily Eagle Ford oil production remains flat at 1.1 million barrels per day as wells begin to mature and firms in the region focus on optimization and capital efficiency.
As of the 2018 assessment conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Eagle Ford basin stands as an extraordinary repository, with reserves of 8.5 billion barrels of crude oil, 66 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and an additional 1.9 billion barrels of natural gas liquids (NGL). In contemporary times, the Eagle Ford basin continues to thrive as a pivotal center of energy production. There are more than 24,000 unconventional wells in the basin and approximately 600 active permits.
The Eagle Ford basin stands as a testament to Texas's enduring legacy in the energy sector, and is a key player in the nation's pursuit of energy independence, contributing approximately 12% of the nation's daily oil production. From Petrohawk Energy’s pioneering well to the ongoing operations of industry giants like EOG, ConocoPhillips, and Marathon, the basin has played a pivotal role in shaping the American energy landscape.
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