Energy Excursions

The Shale Revolution and the Eagle Ford Shale

We have learned that hydraulic fracturing a well requires a great deal of water. We have also seen that managing water produced from an oil and gas well is challenging and poses potential risks to the environment.

Let’s look at a case study of an area here in Texas, the Eagle Ford Shale. In the next few pages we will examine the Eagle Ford’s oil and gas production, and investigate how much water this shale play uses and produces as a result of oil and gas operations.  

Eagle Ford Shale 

The Eagle Ford Shale is a rock formation that produces both natural gas and oil from the Mexican Border extending northeast into Texas. It is one of the most productive shale plays in the world, first discovered in 2008.1Railroad Commission of Texas. (n.d.). Eagle Ford Shale. https://www.rrc.texas.gov/oil-and-gas/major-oil-and-gas-formations/eagle-ford-shale/. Production ramped up almost immediately following the initial discovery well, with hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil and billions of cubic feet of gas produced from the Eagle Ford every day using hydraulic fracturing technology. Let’s take a look at some numbers compiled from the Railroad Commission of Texas on oil and gas production from the beginning of the shale boom from 2008 to today.

Oil Production from the Eagle Ford Shale

In the graph below, oil production is tracked to indicate the average daily production in barrels for the year. Note that data for the year 2021 are incomplete. Because 2020 was an unusual year with the impact of COVID-19, let’s focus on 2019. For reference, United States oil production was 12.2 million barrels/day in 2019.2Energy Information Administration. (2021, March 9). U.S. crude oil production fell by 8% in 2020, the largest annual decrease on record. https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=47056

Total oil production in the Eagle Ford Shale from 2008 to 2021. Note that data for the year 2021 are incomplete.

The Eagle Ford accounted for what percent of United States oil production in 2019? 

6%

Incorrect. 

7%

Incorrect. 

8%

Correct. 

1.0 million bbls is ~8% of 12.2 million bbls. 

In that same year, more crude oil was produced in Texas than in any other state or region of the United States, accounting for 43% of the national total.3Energy Information Administration. (2021, March 9). U.S. crude oil production fell by 8% in 2020, the largest annual decrease on record. https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=47056

Natural Gas Production from the Eagle Ford Shale

In the graph below, natural gas production is tracked to indicate the average daily production in million cubic feet for the year. Note that data for the year 2021 are incomplete. Because 2020 was an unusual year with the impact of COVID-19, let’s focus on 2019. We can see that natural gas production from the Eagle Ford Shale averaged 5.8 billion cubic feet per day that year. For reference, United States natural gas production was 111.5 billion cubic feet per day in 2019, the highest volume on record.4Energy Information Administration. (2020, March 10). U.S. natural gas production grew again in 2019, increasing by 10%. https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=43115

Total natural gas production in the Eagle Ford Shale from 2008 to 2021. Note that data for the year 2021 is incomplete.

Next, let’s look at the Eagle Ford Shale production within the context of water usage and produced water.

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