South Texas – A Wealth of Natural Gas in Eagle Ford
There’s an energy revolution brewing right under our feet.
The Wall Street Journal, 5/10/2010
The root of that revolution – shale gas. Lying under our feet, this unconventional resource was big news in 2010 – with the Haynesville, Barnett, and Marcellus shales getting the bulk of the nation’s attention.
But another shale play, located south of San Antonio, Texas, is thought to hold one of the nation’s largest oil and gas fields and is predicted to outshine the Barnett and Haynesville Shale formations in 2011. The Eagle Ford shale deposit represents a 400 mile long, 50 mile wide seam of gas-rich shale. As Mark Papa, Chairman and CEO of EOG Resources in Houston recently put it:
I expect the Eagle Ford will probably be the hottest single area in all the lower 48 states in 2011.
Despite difficult drilling conditions due to dense rock layers between the surface and the shale gas deposits, several global oil and gas companies (including Shell, OP, China’s CNOOC, and Norway’s Statoil) have already made agreements allowing them to explore the region’s potential.
Shale gas is not without controversy – as shown in last year’s Gasland and Haynesville, which documented the environmental and other risks of tapping these gas deposits. But, it appears that we will be using these resources in the U.S., at least, in the near-term.
Gas-rich shale deposits are reached by drilling to thousands of feet below the earth’s surface, first using vertical and then horizontal drilling techniques. THe shale gas itself is collected using a process called hydraulic fracturing where water, sand and chemicals are pumped into shale until the solid material is fractured, releasing gases that we can use to heat our homes, fill our fuel tanks (after a conversion kit), and generate electricity.
In this process, environmental concerns can appear, especially regarding local water quality and the potential contamination of drinking water tables. However, the world’s oil and gas companies maintain that this process can be completed safely – and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) appears to agree. Controversy surrounding the safety of shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing will likely continue in 2011 – but, shale gas isn’t likely to disappear as a big new player in the energy sphere.