Natural Gas Production Soars in U.S.

EIA Dry Shale Gas Production
EIA Dry Shale Gas Production

Natural gas production in the U.S. was the best it's ever been in April of 2014 according to estimates from Bentek Energy, an energy market analytics company based in Denver, CO. Production for the onshore Lower 48 last month averaged 67.3 Bcf/d, which was about .5 Bcf/d higher than March of 2014 production levels of 66.8 Bcf/d.

In 2014, Bentek predicts that average U.S. production for natural gas will be 67.5 Bcf/d, due in part to a higher overall price environment for producers and continued growth in liquids-rich plays like the Eagle Ford Shale and dry gas plays like the Marcellus Shale.  Currently, natural gas is trading at 4.53/mmbtu, which is a higher price point than some analysts expected due to the increased production volumes.

Natural gas producers are enjoying a relatively robust price environment despite substantially increased output the past two months.
— Jack Wiexel, Bentek director of energy analysis

espite the increase in production, the natural gas market is facing record low storage levels. While the EIA predicts storage build for the upcoming injection season (Apr - Oct) will be record breaking, total Lower 48 end-October inventories in 2014 would still be at their lowest level since 2008.

U.S. consumers need the production levels seen in March and April to continue throughout the summer to avoid high prices in the winter.
— Wiexel

Natural Gas Production in the Eagle Ford

Not surprisingly, gas to oil ratios (GOR) indicate there is a greater focus on oil in the Eagle Ford, but since significant activity began in 2009, there has also been a tremendous spike in natural gas production. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), gas production in the Eagle Ford accounted for nearly 4,000 MMcf/d in June of 2013, compared to only 5.8 MMcf/d in 2009. The Eagle Ford accounts for about 5% of total natural gas production in the onshore Lower 48.

Is the Eagle Ford on Its Way to 2 Million Barrels Per Day of Oil Production?

Eagle Ford Production
Eagle Ford Production

Eagle Ford Production has outpaced expectations for five years and it should be no surprise if the area eventually produces more than 2 million barrels of oil per day.

It's hard to comprehend the full context of the previous statement, so let me state it another way. If the Eagle Ford eventually produces between two and three million barrels of oil per day, the play by itself could land in the list of the top 10 oil producing countries in the world. The entire world produces just under 90 million barrels of oil per day.

Most research organizations predict production will reach between 1.6 and 2 million b/d sometime between 2017 and 2020. Recent results in the Buda and Austin Chalk make it easy to see how the area could produce much more if other formations prove commercial. Add the Permian Basin, where Texas is experiencing similar growth, and the state is closing in on Mexico as the third largest producer in North America (behind the U.S. and Canada)

Eagle Ford Oil Production Expected to Eclipse 1 Million b/d in 2014

EIA Eagle Ford Oil Graph
EIA Eagle Ford Oil Graph

Eagle Ford oil production is nearing 700,000 b/d and Eagle Ford condensate production measured at the wellhead has surpassed 200,000 b/d. Add condensate that falls out further downstream and the play is close to reaching 1 million b/d of total oil and condensate production.

The EIA's most recent drilling productivity report proclaimed the Eagle Ford has already surpassed 1 million b/d of oil production, but the agency is counting both oil and condensate from the entire region. Most analysts are predicting the play will reach the million barrel benchmark for oil only sometime in 2014.

If the whispers we're hearing about capital budgets in 2014 are true, the play will likely surpass the 1 million b/d mark in the first half of the year.

North America Is Becoming More Important in the Global Oil Market

Watch the video depicting North America oil production over the past 30 years below. There's not a whole lot of change until the last few years and that has been magnified in 2013. The Bakken and Eagle Ford are nearing 1 million b/d and the Permian Basin has already surpassed that mark.

The Eagle Ford Influences the Natural Gas Market

Eagle Ford natural gas production is approximately 3 Bcf/d or 5% of onshore production in the contiguous states. That's no small feat for an oil play. Natural gas prone portions of the play provide additional opportunity if prices improve to more than $4/mcf in the coming years.

The Eagle Ford is best in class when it comes to shale plays. Great economics combined with access to the Gulf Coast industrial complex provide a strategic advantage not matched by any play in the world. Watch for the Eagle Ford to continue driving the economy in South Texas even if oil prices drop as much as 20%.