Each $1 rise in oil price makes industry participants smarter. That is especially true in the Eagle Ford Shale, which has produced 2.5 Bbbl of oil to date.
And more oil is coming as a new generation of E&P companies fleshes out the productive limits to the play geographically and geologically. Indeed, after a drop in rig count paralleling the decline in commodity price in the summer of 2017, the outlook is improving across several fronts in the Eagle Ford.
Better understanding of the complex fracture network in the Austin Chalk in the Giddings Field is giving new life to a third wave of development out of the legendary Texas play, where horizontal drilling first came to the fore in land drilling more than 30 years ago.
Elsewhere, E&P companies are pushing the play’s extension to Burleson and Brazos counties in the East Texas Eagle Ford. Finally, a wave of private-equity-backed players, or recently public players via IPOs, is consolidating the play as larger firms exit. These new entrants are importing completion optimization techniques from other plays to make their section of the Eagle Ford economic.
Such developments argue the Eagle Ford is catching a second wind. Recent strength in commodity prices suggests that may be a tailwind going forward.
Eagle Ford (and Austin Chalk) operators enjoy proximity to the Gulf Coast refinery complex, which is enhanced by installed infrastructure, lower water cuts, an oilier production profile and lower well costs.
But the main driver of the developmental renaissance is completion optimization, which incorporates increased proppant loading, fluid selection and volume, and stage and cluster spacing. Additionally, the growing use of diverters is allowing E&P companies like WildHorse Resource Development to extend its proved developed reserves acreage into the geographic fringes of the Austin Chalk, where the company, like cross-play peer Enervest Ltd., is successfully applying stage fracturing techniques to a naturally fractured reservoir.
In terms of proppant loading, E&P companies are importing the Haynesville technique of proppant loads exceeding 3,500 lb per lateral foot. Eagle Ford E&P companies are discovering that the more sand they pump, the greater their production profile will be. In general, sand loading has grown from 1,000 lb to 1,500 lb per foot of lateral three years ago to 3,500 lb per foot of lateral recently, with experiments testing 5,000 lb per foot on 49-m (160-ft) spacing. It can involve 24 million pounds of sand per lateral.
As elsewhere, the goal is a more extensive near-wellbore production profile to minimize parent/child well interference issues. E&P companies also are employing choke management on flowback, restricting rates short-term and creating a flatter production profile but larger cumulative production six months down the road, and thus a better type curve.
Completion optimization is directly responsible for improvement in EURs which, in some cases, are twice those from three years ago and a 100% improvement over the last year. These gains rank the eastern Eagle Ford favorably in well yield vs. higher profile plays such as the Delaware Basin in West Texas.
The new Eagle Ford narrative is that newer entrants have established the effectiveness of completion optimization in core acreage and are now applying those techniques for better yield across large land positions developed via acquisitions to extend the core of their holdings and capture additional proved undeveloped reserves.
It’s a good time to be in the Eagle Ford.