Earlier this week, the Texas Railroad Commission announced that its preliminary numbers for oil production in the Eagle Ford Shale are outstanding. Production climbed 50% from 2011 to 2012, averaging 373,303 barrels per day. That growth is significant, and provides investors with some pretty compelling opportunities, so let's take a closer look at what's going on in southeastern Texas.
The Eagle Ford shale seems to have come out of nowhere. In 2008, oil production in the region was a scant 358 barrels per day -- but take a look at what's happened since then:
You can see that the biggest production increase in the short four year history of the play came last year. Keep in mind that the slight uptick at the end of the graph is a mere month's worth of production -- and even that increased by more than 12,000 bpd.
What's the story here?
The Eagle Ford Shale is a geologic wonder that stretches from the southern border of Texas up through to around Austin.
The shale's pay zone is thicker than most U.S. plays, with a higher percentage of carbonate material. On top of that, the distinct banding pattern of the Eagle Ford allows producers to target specific commodities for production. In the picture above, the green band is the oil region, the yellow band is for natural gas liquids, and the pink band is for dry gas.
This sort of production growth is hard to ignore. The companies behind these staggering numbers are making a killing ... so who are they?
The top producer in the play is EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG). In fact, EOG cranks so much oil out of the Eagle Ford -- 109,776 barrels per day in 2012 -- that it's actually the second largest oil producer in all of Texas.
Finally, we have Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (UNKNOWN:KMP.DL). All of the oil and NGLs produced in the Eagle Ford are worthless without transportation and processing infrastructure. Kinder Morgan had the pipeline asset base in the Eagle Ford, and its buyout of Copano Energy will give it a processing footprint, as well, when the deal closes in the third quarter of this year.
More to come?
Producers are increasingly targeting the region, which includes both the Eagle Ford and the Woodbine sandstone formations. This area, cleverly titled "Eaglebine," is northeast of where the bulk of the oil activity is in the Eagle Ford right now. Halcon Resources (NYSE:HK) is one company that plans to make the most of the new sweet spot. The company has nine wells there, and plans to spend $490 million on drilling and completing many more this year.
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