Eagle Ford Shale Task Force Report

View the Report
View the Report

The Eagle Ford Task Force met throughout 2011 and 2012 to address concerns and challenges that accompany the growing economy across South Texas.

The group compiled its findings in a report published by the Texas Railroad Commission. The report was overshadowed by UTSA's Updated Eagle Ford Study not long after its release, but there is still a wealth of information to take away.Major takeaways include:

  • Energy companies must explore previously untapped recruitment resources to meet immediate labor needs
  • TX RRC wants to speed up the determination that pipelines will be of "public use" to allow for quicker decisions in development
  • RRC records do not include a single documented groundwater contamination case associated with hydraulic fracturing
  • RRC is in the process of updating rules related to injection & disposal wells, well integrity, wellhead control, waste management, and water recycling
  • Texas oil production may push the US ahead of Saudi Arabia and Russia in 2020
  • Natural gas flaring in oil fields is being scrutinized at the regulatory level
  • Health care and expanded educational offerings are needed to equip workers of the future

If you have an interest in any of the topics above, you can read the full report at rrc.state.tx.us

Eagle Ford Task Force Turns to Natural Gas Flaring

Natural Gas Flare
Natural Gas Flare

The Eagle Ford Task Force is turning its attention to natural gas flaring. Texas set a record for flaring permits earlier in the year and the trend will continue until pipelines and gathering systems catch up with drilling.

In oil producing areas like the Eagle Ford, drilling and first production is reached weeks and sometimes months before pipeline companies get natural gas infrastructure to the area. Oil can be moved with a truck, but natural gas needs pipelines.

Flaring is commonplace in oil producing areas and is very rarely abused. More often than not, flaring lasts only a few days or weeks. It is in the operators best interest to get paid for natural gas they're producing.

The task force plans to work with companies to increase the use of natural gas generators on location. On-site generators can power electric machinery and will help limit the amount of flaring.

A main concern for the region is whether or not the Eagle Ford will push the San Antonio Metro Area over the federal limits for ozone standards. The ozone issue alone will have politicians anxious.

Comments from David Porter indicate the TX RRC is going to review its rules to make sure they are relevant in the modern shale era. I suspect there won't be major changes. Even if big changes come, infrastructure in the Eagle Ford will be catching up and flaring won't be near as prevalent by the time any legislation is enacted.

Eagle Ford Task Force Finds South Texas Water Supply Sufficient

Data shows Carrizo Wilcox Aquifer contains enough water to support oil and gas development The Eagle Ford Task Force (EFTF), appointed by Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter, convened in San Antonio in November and December to discuss water quantity and usage as it relates to oil and gas production in the Eagle Ford Shale.

The 26-member group was presented with data and statistics concerning water usage from several sources, and subsequently met privately to discuss the data presented and consider its implications.

The task force came to the conclusion that, based on the information presented, the Carrizo Wilcox Aquifer in South Texas appears to contain enough water resources to support oil and gas drilling activities, including hydraulic fracturing, in the Eagle Ford Shale while meeting all other projected uses.

“I am pleased to announce, after exhaustive research, our task force has found water sourcing in South Texas is currently not an issue,” said Railroad Commissioner David Porter.  “We will continue to study best practices for water management in the region to help mitigate any future issues.”

South Texas Water is Sufficient for Fracking

The data presented to the group indicated that drilling and completions in the Eagle Ford Shale account for approximately six percent of the water demand in South Texas, while irrigation accounts for 64 percent and municipal uses account for 17 percent.

In addition, the industry as a whole has reduced the amount of water it uses to hydraulically fracture wells.  Currently, industry is reporting an average use of approximately 11 acre-feet of water used to complete each well, down from the approximately 15 acre-feet previously used.

Industry experts informed the task force that approximately 2,600 to 2,800 new wells are expected to be completed annually in the Eagle Ford Shale at peak demand, which translates into about 30,000 acre-feet of water per year during the heaviest point of development of the Eagle Ford Shale.  In 2008, the Carrizo Wilcox Aquifer contained 540,000 acre-feet of available water.

"I am pleased industry has made improvements in reducing the amount of water used in the hydraulic fracturing process, and we look forward to working in a cooperative manner with all task force stakeholders to continue improving the process,” said task force member Teresa Carrillo, Sierra Club, Executive Committee Member, Lone Star Chapter.  “However, there is still concern that this pumping may have localized impacts on water levels in the aquifer and on aquifer discharges to streams and springs.  We are hopeful that through this task force process our concerns will be addressed.  Texas is on a world stage and we can make this a model for all the nation and the rest of the world to follow.”

Future Water Sources and Monitoring

Several task force members also indicated their companies are looking into using brackish water for hydraulic fracturing versus fresh water, freeing up even more resources in the Carrizo Wilcox Aquifer.

“EOG is always looking for ways to conserve natural resources and we are taking significant steps to minimize water usage,” said task force member Steve Ellis, Senior Division Counsel, EOG Resources, Inc.  “In addition, we are expanding the use of brackish water in our completion operations to reduce the demand for fresh water.”

Presently, there are several mechanisms in place to monitor water usage in the region.  For example, local Groundwater Conservation Districts measure water levels monthly to determine whether levels are increasing or decreasing.  Historically, during periods of drought, like the one South Texas has recently been experiencing, water levels will decline until normal rain patterns return.  At which time, water levels tend to return to pre-drought levels.

“We have seen water levels drop this past year due to the drought, which has caused everyone to pump more groundwater,” said task force member Mike Mahoney, General Manager, Evergreen Underground Water Conservation District.  “However, we do not see groundwater pumping for oil and gas drilling and completions as a significant contribution to the decline in water levels, when compared to overall pumping.”

The EFTF will continue to meet monthly to examine issues pertinent to the region.

David J. Porter was elected to the Texas Railroad Commission on November 2, 2010. A Certified Public Accountant and successful small business owner, Commissioner Porter has worked with oil and gas producers for nearly three decades providing strategic financial advice and tax counsel. He has a long record of pro-business, free market, conservative credentials. Visit www.rrc.state.tx.us for additional RRC information.

Contact Lauren Willis at lauren.willis@rrc.state.tx.us for additional information.

Eagle Ford Task Force - Water Issues at the Forefront of Agenda

The Eagle Ford Task Force met November 2, at the UTSA campus in downtown San Antonio. Water issues are at the forefront of the task force's agenda. Six experts invited by RRC Commissioner David Porter addressed the task force. Two of the presentation and the agenda can be accessed below

Both Darrell Brownlow, a geologist, and Stephen Jester, an engineer with ConocoPhillips, indicated there should be ample water to supply fracking needs in the Eagle Ford. Brownlow estimates that for every 1 acre-foot of water used in fracking that 280 acre-feet are used for other purposes. Jester estimates that at peak consumption the Eagle Ford will only account for 5-6.7% of water demand in the 16 county region he evaluated. That's really focusing in on the core. The aquifers in the region cover much more than 16 counties.

Advancements in completions are also decreasing the amount of water used in each well. Early on, operators reported using 125,000 bbls or more in completions, but some are now using less than 85,000 bbls of water per well and Jester believes that number will continue to decline on an efficiency basis.

Brent Halldorson of Fountain Quail Water Management addressed the potential of recycling flow back water (water produced after a hydraulic fracture completion). The industry has the opportunity to recycle as much as 15-20% of the water it uses in hydraulic fracturing. Fountain Quail recently opened a water treatment plant in Kenedy, TX.

One attendee brought up the fact that water used in fracking is taken out of the hydrologic cycle and not replaced, but several industry participants made sure the panel was aware that natural gas combustion creates water and that some have estimated the same amount of water used in fracking is produced from combustion of natural gas in the first few years of an Eagle Ford well's life. Interesting.

The Eagle Ford Task Force plans to meet once a month to address issues and concerns related to the Eagle Ford. Stay up to date with task force news at our Task Force News page.