The Eagle Ford Shale formation was discovered in 2008 and covers 3,000 square miles in the Western Gulf Basin. It is 5,700 to 10,200 feet in depth and differs from other shale formations because it includes both oil and natural gas resources. According to the Energy Information Administration, it is the largest producer of tight-oil in the US resulting in 2013 totals of approximately 1.1 million barrels of oil a day -- approaching 1.6 million currently.
Tight-Oil -- that’s the broad category for the oil in the dense rocks that lie above or below conventional shale oil reservoirs. Since 2008, tight-oil production in the U.S. has grown from 600,000 to 3.5 million barrels per day. Shale oil coming to market is making up an ever-greater portion of U.S. domestic crude production.
As reported on the website Eagle Ford Shale News, by 2020 this deposit alone is expected to reach yields of 2 million barrels per day of crude and condensate. That is 16% more than the productive Bakken Shale area of North Dakota. Existing midstream infrastructure in Texas has been able to handle this level of production easily, and Gulf Coast refining markets are ramping up to accommodate the additional Eagle Ford output.
At present 300 drilling rigs are in play in the Eagle Ford Shale area (48% of the active rigs in the US are located in Texas). Energy companies now plan to revisit vertical wells by drilling horizontal wells to maximize the output of their efforts utilizing improved horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology.
Production growth like that is affecting towns around the state with enormous influxes of population -- Houston’s population grew to 2.2 million in 2013 and other cities are seeing 5-8% increases. The Corpus Christi metropolitan area has a population of 430,000 with a low unemployment of 5.4%. 10,000-12,000 new construction jobs are expected to be in place by 2016 to handle new developments related to drilling, pipeline and oil field services.
As well, ports such as Corpus Christi are seeing changes to accommodate the oil and gas activity. The fifth largest port by tonnage in the US and the deepest inland port, Corpus Christi is located on the South Texas Gulf Coast, just 70 miles south of the Eagle Ford Shale Deposit. The 25,000 acre location features a 45-foot channel (with a future depth planned for 52 feet) and three class I rail connections.
According to the Oil & Gas Journal, the Port of Corpus Christi has evolved into the major coastal gateway for crude produced in Eagle Ford. In January 2014, approximately 16.4 million barrels of crude moved out of the port. The oil is transported by truck, pipeline and rail to US-flagged coastal barges and tankers.
To accommodate these shipments, the port has built or will expand 12 docks to increase capacity to 43 docks. Frank Brogan, managing director of Port Corpus Christi was quoted in the Oil & Gas Journal, saying: “There has been more activity announced in the last 18 months than in the last 25 years.” Trafigura is investing $200 million to expand its terminal, Texas Dock & Rail, and storage facilities. Voestalpine is building a $750 million facility to produce hot briquetted iron, due to access to inexpensive natural gas from Eagle Ford. TPCO America Corp. has begun construction of a $1 billion seamless pipe plant. Planned to come online in 2016, the pipe will be destined for use at oil and gas wells in the US. La Quinta is building a multi-purpose container and cargo-handling facility.
Three years ago, the port primarily imported crude oil for refining by Valero Energy, Citgo Refining & Chemical Inc., and Flint Hills Resources LP. Almost no crude was sent outbound. By June 2013, the port was sending more crude out than it was receiving, directly related to the increased production in Eagle Ford. Shipments of this crude are going to the US East Coast and to Quebec with a substantial amount heading to Houston refineries. Waivers of the Jones Act have allowed shipments to Canada.
In addition to oil moving through the port, 1 million tons of the sand that is used in hydraulic fracturing in Eagle Ford was handled in 2013. The sand is cleaned, processed and trucked to drill sites from the port.
As reported on the Corpus Christi Port website, ongoing facility upgrades to handle Eagle Ford export activity demand include: Oil Dock 12 had new breasting structures added to deal with larger and more frequent tanker barge calls; Oil Dock 5 was added for barge loading; Barge fleeting and mooring areas are planned for the increasing number of sands and liquids coming into port; Improvements in through-put efficiency and bringing formerly unused docks into play are other focusses of the port administration.
PortVision provides real-time and historical vessel tracking of barge tows, ships, and tankers serving the region, and regularly partners with local industry groups in Corpus Christi to support initiatives that will improve supply chain and maritime efficiency in the region.