Fracking Turns 65 - Eagle Ford Shale Drilling Boom Made Possible by the Technology

Mission Well Services Frac Spread
Mission Well Services Frac Spread

On Monday, The American Petroleum Institute celebrated the 65th birthday of hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The technology is widely used across the Eagle Ford Shale, and has contributed significantly to Texas's current oil boom, giving many folks connected to the oil and gas industry in the state reason to celebrate.

According to a University of Texas at San Antonio study, the development of the Eagle Ford Shale had an economic impact of $61 billion on the region in 2012. That's not a small figure, and estimates for future exploitation of the tight oil formation through fracking are only expected to go up.

At the beginning of March 2014, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) released data placing the Eagle Ford at the head of the pack for oil production in Texas per well compared to six other U.S. domestic shale plays. The EIA credits horizontal drilling and fracking for the play's strong oil production.

Read more: Eagle Ford Leads Pack in Oil Production Per Well - EIA

Industry players and those connected to the industry maintain that fracking is safe.

At the 2014 NAPE Winter Business Conference, Former Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, said, “I believe hydraulic fracking is safe… there is not a single case where fracking has caused an environmental problem for anyone.

There is however strong opposition to fracking from some special interest groups, activists across the country and local residents living in areas impacted by the oil patch.

Since the drilling boom began in the Eagle Ford Shale, a steady up-tick in earthquakes in South Texas has been recorded. Scientists believe that could be linked to fracking and disposal and injection wells.

Read more: Eagle Ford Quakes Linked to Disposal and Injection Wells

As the Eagle Ford continues to be developed, the practice of fracking will continue to impact the state of Texas and those connected to the industry in multiple ways - economically, politically and environmentally.

The first commercial fracking job was in Duncan, Oklahoma on March 17, 1949, according to API.


Eagle Ford Well Completed With LNG Powered Frack Pumps

Onshore LNG Regas and Tanker
Onshore LNG Regas and Tanker

LNG powered frack pumps were used to complete an Eagle Ford well in late 2012. We sat down with Ferus' LNG rep Jed Tallman to learn more. This was the first time LNG has ever been used to fuel pumps fracking a well. Field gas has been used by Schlumberger in the Horn River Basin of Canada, but LNG has never been used before.

Ferus is an oilfield service company that supplies cryogenic liquids as part of its offering. The company worked with Baker Hughes to test natural gas conversion technology and yard tested 10 Cummins QSK50 powered pumps. After a successful test, the companies took the pumps into the field to complete an Eagle Ford well south of Pearsall.

Diesel fuel was used as the spark for combustion and LNG was regassed and brought in through the air intake.

Mr. Tallman stated, "This particular technology can achieve diesel substitution rates of 40-65%. An average of 50% substitution is expected.""

Only 6 LNG powered pumps were used on this particular job, but ten will be tested soon. A real determination of savings will be made when the LNG pumps are being fully utilized.

In simple economic terms, vaporized LNG is 20-40% cheaper than diesel fuel. Ifyou can substitute half that cost, you can save 10-20% on fuel costs alone. Build pumps fully powered by LNG and you might save 40%. Consider the average Eagle Ford well can consume as much as 25,000 gallons of diesel and the economics become attractive.

LNG Provides Environmental Benefits

There is also an environmental benefit to using LNG over diesel. Emissions for natural gas vs. diesel can drop as much as 30% for CO2, 75% drop for NOx, 90% drop in particulates, and a 99% drop is SOx emissions.

More LNG Powered Frack Jobs Are Coming

Ferus is building one 50,000 gallon per day LNG plant in Western Canada and has plans for three more, each of which will have capacity for 87,000 to 100,000 gallons per day, consuming 8.5 mmbtu’s/day.

Ferus is building one 50,000 gallon per day LNG plant in Western Canada and has plans for three more, each of which will have capacity for 87,000 to 100,000 gallons per day, consuming 8.5 mmbtu’s/day. Ferus is currently looking at areas of high demand and expects the Eagle Ford to top that list. The company committed to develop the plants a couple of years ago, so everything is in place to have a plant up and running in as little as 18 months.

This won't be the last time you hear about LNG being used in frack pumps. Apache will complete a well with 12 LNG powered frack pumps in January of 2013. The effort will be in partnership with Schlumberger and Halliburton. Apache expects fuel cost to fall from a little more than $120,000 to less than $75,000 when utilizing a duel fuel approach similar to that implemented by Baker Hughes and Ferus.

The real hope is to one day fuel the pumps with gas source directly from the field. If field gas were to replace diesel, the industry could save more than $1.5 billion per year. Sounds to me like Ferus should get to work on a new plant in South Texas. 

Waste Connections Acquires R360 Environmental for $1.3 Billion

R360 Environmental Locations
R360 Environmental Locations

Waste Connections is acquiring R360 Environmental Solutions for $1.3 billion. The deal gives Woodlands based Waste Connections operations in several key oil & gas basins across the country. R360 provides non-hazardous oilfield waste treatment, recovery and disposal services in the oil-rich Permian, Bakken and Eagle Ford Basins. Operations include 26 facilities across Louisiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming.

"Through acquisitions and new facility development, R360 has created leading positions in key basins, providing closed loop oilfield waste services within an increasingly stringent regulatory environment. This acquisition represents a natural extension of our existing E&P disposal activities," said Ronald J. Mittelstaedt, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "While a tepid economy has impacted MSW volumes, increased drilling activity in unconventional areas is fueling impressive organic growth within the E&P waste sector. R360 is actively permitting several new sites to further expand its operations in this growing industry."

"For R360, this is a terrific opportunity that should enable us to grow more rapidly," said Troy W. Thacker, Chief Executive Officer of R360 Environmental Solutions. "By combining our business and expertise with the scale, breadth and financial resources of Waste Connections, we will be able to enhance the environmental solutions we bring to our customers. Both companies value safety and protecting the environment as well as excellence and integrity in business practices. We believe that Waste Connections will be a great home for R360 and our team."

Read the full press release at

Texas Tribune Festival On the Road - Symposium on Energy & Environment April 13, 2012

If you are in the Houston area, there is a free Energy Symposium April 13, from 8 to 4 at the Wortham Theatre on campus at the University of Houston (131 Wortham Theatre, Houston, TX 77204). There will be speakers and panel discussions covering topics related to the Eagle Ford all the way to broader Texas energy plan issues. Be sure to check our Eagle Ford Conferences page for future events. Here's a short summary of the agenda:

8-9 The Chancellor of the University of Houston System will speak

9:15-10:15 Barry Smitherman, Chairman of the TX RRC is presenting on "An Energy Plan for Texas"

10:30-11:30 Is Clean and Renewable Energy an Oxymoron? - Panel Discussion

1:30-2:30 The Impact of the Eagle Ford Shale - Panel Discussion

  • Not really anything new.  A couple of politicians and an environmentalist talked about what theoretically needs to happen. If you aren't involved in public policy (intimately), you didn't miss much.

2:45-3:45 A conversation with two state representatives from the House Energy Resources Committee

Hydraulic Fracturing Does Not Contaminate Drinking Water

Hydraulic fracturing, fracking, or frac'ing, depending on who you talk to, DOES NOT contaminate drinking water.  That was the conclusion from a University of Texas Energy Institute study of the process. The study noted that contamination is usually related to above ground spills or a mishandling of wastewater.

Noteably, the study was not funded by industry dollars.