More than two years later, gas prices are still in a rut, but investors and the industry alike are extremely excited about the Eagle Ford. The reason is that this play has turned out to be quite different than it first appeared.
Liquids-rich? We're rich!
Petrohawk's initial discovery, the STS No. 241-1H well in La Salle County, Texas, actually hinted at the Eagle Ford's potential as something more than just another shale gas play. In addition to producing gas at an initial rate of 7.6 million cubic feet per day, the well also kicked out 250 barrels per day of condensate. Condensate pricing is tightly linked with oil prices, making these liquids-rich, so-called "wet gas" wells highly economic even at low gas prices.
In time it became clear that there are actually three distinct plays within the Eagle Ford -- a dry gas window, a wet gas window, and an oil window. It was also established that the liquids aspect of this play is massive, after EOG Resources
Breaking it down
This month, EOG released an updated slide presentation on its Eagle Ford asset, which is what prompted me to take another look at the play. The company continues to peg its reserve potential (not proved reserves) at 900 million barrels equivalent, with 77% of that figure represented by crude oil. The company has also broken its acreage position into an Eastern and Western province, with the Eastern area showing higher reserves per well and better initial production rates. This is supported by Petrohawk's characterization of its Black Hawk prospect in Gonzales County as the most economic asset in the company's portfolio at current prices. To the west, it appears that longer laterals are required to compensate for thinner sections of reservoir rock.
In terms of drilling costs and per-well ultimate oil recoveries (EURs), company estimates vary widely -- even within the same company! Crimson Exploration's
All Eagle Ford acreage is not created equal
Not even close. By EOG's count, the play spans no fewer than 15 different counties. There are sweet spots, and there are not-so-sweet spots. The economics of these prospects will vary dramatically. Just because acreage lies in the oil window, doesn't mean all of the other requisite conditions are in place for commercial production. An asset in the condensate window, such as Rosetta Resources'
So if you haven't yet taken the plunge into an Eagle Ford producer, but are thinking of doing so, make sure you study up on the specific areas within the greater play that your E&P is targeting. Rosetta looks like it has a winner with Gates Ranch and is spending 90% of its 2011 budget in the Eagle Ford. You can't get a much more concentrated bet than that. The valuation is currently on the rich side, in part due to speculation surrounding Rosetta's emerging Southern Alberta Basin play in Montana, but this could make for a strong portfolio addition on a pullback.
Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. Check out his CAPS profile or follow his articles using Twitter or RSS. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.