With production at 66,000 boe/d day in July 2011, the Eagle Ford shale play in South Texas remains overshadowed by its more mature neighbors, the Barnett shale (877,000 boe/d) and the Haynesville shale (708,000 boe/d). But a surge in new drilling activity suggests that is about to change.

Data research firm Evaluate Energy projects the Eagle Ford shale may soon become the biggest producing shale play in Texas, if not the entire US. Drilling activity in the Eagle Ford has been growing dramatically for the past year, and at the end of 1Q 2011, it was the area with the most new wells being drilled in the state, Evaluate Energy found. According to the report, “the Eagle Ford play is looking like it will soon catch up with and overtake its neighbors.”

Going longer, getting cheaper

Magnum Hunter Resources Corp . is one of the companies tackling the Eagle Ford play. CEO Gary Evans said at the IPAA OGIS New York conference in April 2011, “One of the things we’re striving to do in the Eagle Ford is to go out further.”

With seven wells completed and producing in the play, the company has upsized from 1,219-m (4,000-ft) laterals to its most recent lateral of 1,829 m (6,000 ft), although 244 m (800 ft) was lost at the toe due to mechanical problems. “We’re fracing more stages, too,” he said. “We’re trying to get up to 20 stages per well.” Most Magnum Hunter wells to date have been completed with 14 to 16 fracture stages.

The company holds 25,000 net acres, most of those part of 50% operated joint venture partnerships with Hunt Oil Co., EOG Resources Inc., and GeoSouthern Energy Corp . Most of its acreage is concentrated in the oil window of Gonzalez County, with some in Fayette, Lee, and Atascosa counties, where the average thickness of the Eagle Ford is 23 m to 46 m (75 to 150 ft), with 8% to 10% porosity and 60% to 80% brittle rock.

Its latest wells have averaged 1,200 to 1,300 boe/d. “Our goal is to get to 2,000 boe/d per well IP (initial production),” Evans said. Current wells are typically leveling out at 400 to 600 b/d. Production is 98% oil, “not condensate,” he clarified. Magnum Hunter is running one rig, and Hunt has another focused on JV acreage. Evans expects to have 15 wells on production by yearend