The Eagle Ford is an institution of tight oil development. Beginning in 2010, the play launched into the unconventionals arena and quickly emerged as the leading U.S. Lower 48 resource play. Throughout the downturn, it remained the single largest contributing play to U.S. tight oil supply. Activity temporarily slowed as prices fell, but a turnaround already is in the works, with double-digit growth expected beginning in 2019. Nearly 7 Bboe breaks even below $50/bbl, leaving operators with a lengthy runway to look forward to in the coming years.
The Eagle Ford holds enormous value, with more than $90 billion on a net present value at a 10% discount rate basis, suggesting it will be a formidable resource for years to come. Future value is primarily driven by the condensate sub-plays, where improved well performance coupled with falling well and service costs have kept the area competitive. Operators have used the downturn to explore new ways of optimizing well designs to improve productivity. A new focus on higher proppant loads, longer lateral lengths and precision drilling have boosted EURs by 10%. Breakevens have even dipped as low as $36/bbl in the core Karnes Trough sub-play.
Over time, more operators are expected to flock to the southern reaches of the play, where dry gas wells are beginning to resemble the Haynesville and Marcellus shale plays. Economics in the Southwest Gas sub-play experienced the greatest improvement of all Eagle Ford sub-plays, pulling down breakevens by more than 40% to less than $2.70/Mcf. On top of improvements in well performance, proximity to emerging demand centers along the Gulf Coast gives Eagle Ford gas producers a competitive advantage.