A new industry has sprung up in the metropolis of Carrizo Springs, Texas, in the heart of the Eagle Ford Shale Play: lodging for oil field workers — and lodging in style. In an attempt to keep workers in the field, companies are putting up their workers in plush hotel-like “lodges.” Amenities include three meals a day, laundry and dining facilities, media and recreation rooms, 24-hour business centers, free Wi-Fi, Blu-ray players and flat-screen TVs in all rooms, microwaves and movie rentals. Operators of these facilities rent out blocks of rooms to operators and their vendors, sometimes keeping different companies’ employees together and away from their competition, to lessen the risk of raiding competitors. One facility has a 2,000-seat cafeteria, broken up into four separated dining areas with the kitchen in the middle, allowing one company to have a dining room all to itself, to keep out rival companies’ employees. Check out these new examples of “remote workforce housing”:
Wells Fargo Bank recently had a presentation about aspects of drilling in the Eagle Ford Shale. Some of its slides are enlightening.
First, below are two pictures of a wellsite during the fracing of a well:
These photos illustrate the impact of drilling operations. A typical drillsite for these types of wells may be five to ten acres. During fracing, it looks like an industrial site. These pads are designed to drill multiple wells from a single site.
The EPA has issued its draft plan to study the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water in the U.S. Two state regulatory authorities have absolved frac’ed wells from responsibility for contaminating drinking water in Colorado and Texas. Maryland’s top einvornmental regulator urged lawmakers to impose a two-year moratorium on frac’ing, as Maryland’s legislature considers additional laws to regulate the practice. Meanwhile, the boom in shale gas drilling continues.
Darell T. Brownlow, Ph.D, has published an article giving his analysis and opinion of the ability of the Carrizo Aquifer to supply water demands caused by fracing of wells in the Eagle Ford play. The article was published in the newsletter of the Texas Ground Water Association, Fountainhead, and can be found here: Brownlow Article.pdf
Dr. Brownlow, a hydrologist, concludes that there is plenty of water in the Carrizo, in most places, to meet the demands for frac water. His estimates:
- There are about 6 million acres in the Eagle Ford play, and a possible 20,000 oil and gas wells (one well per 300 acres).
Arthur Berman, a geological consultant, has once again blasted the economics of gas shale plays — this time the Marcellus. At the annual conference sponsored by the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas – USA, held on October 7-9 in Washington, D.C., Mr. Berman made a presentation: “Shale Gas–Abundance or Mirage? Why the Marcellus Shale Will Disappoint Expectations.” His power-point from that presentation may be found here: Arthur Berman on Marcellus.pdf Mr. Berman argues that only a small percentage of the areas now being touted as productive in shale plays — the “core areas” are economic at any price; that even within the core areas, performance is not uniform and the geology is complex; that the wells are very expensive and the break-even gas price is as high as $8-$12/mcf; that reserves have been overstated by the companies in the plays; that the industry is not properly estimating estimated ultimate recoveries from the wells; that changes in reporting rules recently adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission allow companies to “book” estimated reserves prematurely; and that the economies of the plays will ultimately be reflected in lower share prices of the companies participating in the plays.
For the Marcellus in particular, Mr. Berman asserts that infrastructure limitations — lack of pipeline and gas processing capacity — will slow development, that environmental issues — fears about groundwater contamination, proximity to urban areas, and regulatory restraints — will not go away, and that economics for drilling in the Marcellus Shale are no better than in the Barnett Shale. Mr. Berman says that shale gas is the nation’s next speculative bubble likely to burst.
Mr. Berman created a stir just a year ago when he published a similar gloomy analysis of the Barnett Shale, at the ASPO conference in October 2009. At that time he was a contributor to a trade publication called World Oil, which is sent free to top oil & gas E&P executives. In early November 2009, World Oil was about to publish another article by Mr. Berman critical of shale plays, but the president of the publication ordered that it not be published. Mr. Berman resigned, and his editor Perry Fischer, who insisted that the article be published, was fired. All of this created a stir in the blogosphere. Fischer contended that World Oil executives were pressured by CEOs of two public E&P companies not to publish any more of Mr. Berman’s critiques. Tudor Holt & Pickering, who analyze the oil and gas industry, published a critique of Mr. Berman’s analysis, and two oil executives from Devon and Chesapeake wrote newspaper op ed pieces critical of his work. Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon said at the time that he expected gas prices to continue to rise, which would lead to an increase in drilling and production in the shale plays. “We think all of the elements are in place for gas prices to be higher in 2010 than they are today,” McClendon said.
RigData has compiled the numbers of active drilling rigs by county for each of the major shale plays in Texas: Barnett, Haynesville and Eagle Ford. These serve as a good measure of the degree of activity in each of the counties within these plays.
The Barnett Shale rig count
shows a total of 81 rigs in July. The rig count has held steady around 80 for the last several months. Activity is concentrated in the core area, Tarrant and Johnson Counties.
EOG Resources has filed an application for designation of two new fields and for temporary field rules for oil wells in seven counties in South Texas (Eagle Ford proposed rules.pdf). Unlike its previous application, which sought to consolidate numerous Eagle Ford fields in Railroad Commission of Texas Districts 1, 2 and 4 and provide for temporary field rules for oil and gas, the new application seeks rules oil well rules only, for seven counties — DeWitt, Karnes, Gonzales, Wilson, Atascosa, LaSalle and McMullen. EOG asks for expansion of the existing Eagleville (Eagle Ford) Field, renamed the Eagleville (Eagle Ford -2) Field for Karnes and DeWitt Counties, and a new Eagleville (Eagle Ford -2) Field for Gonzales, Wilson, Atascosa, LaSalle and McMullen Counties.
The proposed rules would provide for a minimum 330 feet from lease line spacing, no between-well spacing, and a minimum of 100 feet from lease line to the first and last take points in a horizontal well, a “box” rule, and a special rule for off-lease penetration of the producing formation.
The standard proration unit size for oil wells would be 80 acres, plus additional acreage for horizontal wells as allowed by RRC Rule 86. Under the proposed rules, an operator would be allowed to assign up to 360 acres to a horizontal well with a 5,000-foot lateral.
At the hearing today before the Texas Railroad Commission for consideration of EOG Resources’ application for temporary field rules for a new field consolidating 27 existing fields in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas, the applicant EOG Resouces announced that it was withdrawing its application. (See my previous post on this application here.) EOG’s lawyer said that the application was filed at the suggestion of Railroad Commission staff in order to have uniform rules for all wells drilled in the Eagle Ford, but because of the number of parties who had appeared in the hearing in opposition to the application, EOG would withdraw the application. He said that EOG plans to file a new application for temporary field rules for the Eagle Ford in eight counties where EOG has acreage: Gonzales, Wilson, Karnes, Atascosa, McMullen, La Salle, DeWitt, and Frio Counties. He said that the rules EOG would propose would apply to oil wells only, as EOG’s acreage is in the oil window of the play. Other operators in the gas portion of the play are also expected to file additional applications for temporary field rules for gas wells.
EOG Resources has filed an application with the Texas Railroad Commission proposing the adoption of temporary field rules for wells drilled in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas that could have a significant impact on thousands of oil and gas leases in the field. The application proposes to consolidate 27 designated fields that produce from the Eagle Ford Shale formation, and the proposed rules will replace any field rules previously adopted for those fields. The consolidated rules would apply to Eagle Ford Shale wells drilled in Railroad Commission of Texas Districts 1, 2 and 4. A copy of the notice of the Railroad Commission hearing for the adoption of the proposed rules may be found here:
eagle ford field rules.pdf. The hearing is scheduled for June 25, 2010, at 9 am in the William B. Travis Sate Office Building, 1701 Congress Avenue, Austin. Persons wishing to participate in the hearing must file a notice of intent to appear at least five working days in advance of the hearing date and serve a copy of the notice on the applicant and any other parties of record. More information can be obtained by calling the Office of General Counsel of the Railroad Commission at 512-463-6848.
Field rules are adopted by the Railroad Commission to govern the spacing of wells in a field. They specify how far wells must be from each other, how far wells must be from the nearest lease line, and how much acreage must be assigned to a well in order to obtain a permit to drill a well. The acreage assigned to a proposed well is known as a “proration unit.” Well spacing and density rules were developed by the Commission after it was given jurisdiction over oil and gas operations in Texas in the early days of the oil industry, principally because of unregulated drilling in the East Texas Field. Because of unregulated drilling in that field, wells were being drilled that were not necessary for the efficient development of the field, and oil prices plummeted. The Commission was also given authority to “prorate” production from a field — that is, to limit production, and to allocate or “prorate” the specified limit of production from a field among the wells in a field. The stated purposes of spacing and density rules are to avoid waste and protect the correlative rights of producers in the field. Theoretically, field rules should designate a size for proration units that approximates the amount of acreage in the field that can be efficiently drained by a single well.
The field rules proposed by EOG would provide:
Newfield Exploration has reported that it is drilling horizontal wells with “super extended laterals” in the Woodford Shale in Oklahoma — wells with laterals exceeding 5,000 feet. Newfield has so far drilled 14 super-extended lateral wells, with an average length of 9,000 feet. Those wells had an average gross initial production rate of approximately 9 MMcfe/day.
ConocoPhillips reported that it has completed the drilling of four horizontal wells in the Eagle Ford shale play, in its “liquids-rich” core. The first of these wells was put on production in March and flowed at an initial rate of 3.8 mmcf/day and 1,200 barrels/day of condensate.
All of the new shale gas production continues to put downward pressure on gas prices. Natural gas futures for June delivery fell 36.8 cents, or 8.5 percent on Thursday, April 29 on NYMEX. So far this year, natural gas futures have fallen 29 percent. The Energy Information Administration reported that the supply of gas in storage increased by 83 Bcf for the week ended April 30. Gas in storage is 315 Bcf above the 5-year average.