Texas has a reputation of doing things in a big way and this time is no different, one of the worlds largest oil fields have been found right here in the U.S. in the western part of Texas.
And companies are rushing to get it out of the ground. More than a dozen companies plan to drill up to 3,000 wells around here in the next 12 months.
Eagle Ford the name of the Texas field, is just one of about 20 new onshore oil fields that industry sources say could collectively increase the nation’s oil output by 25 percent within a decade.
The “problem” is, at least to environmentalists, the oil fields are of the “shale oil” variety, and the way to get it it out of the ground is by fracking a process that makes environmentalists nervous. Fracking involves injecting water, with sand and other additives, into the rock to push the oil and/or gas into accessible pockets. Improvements in technology allow drilling horizontally from a single, above-ground well, reducing the above-ground hit on the environment.
Based on the industry’s plans, shale and other “tight rock” fields that now produce about half a million barrels of oil a day will produce up to three million barrels daily by 2020, according to IHS CERA, an energy research firm. Oil companies are investing an estimated $25 billion this year to drill 5,000 new oil wells in tight rock fields, according to Raoul LeBlanc, a senior director at PFC Energy, a consulting firm.
“This is very big and it’s coming on very fast,” said Daniel Yergin, the chairman of IHS CERA. “This is like adding another Venezuela or Kuwait by 2020, except these tight oil fields are in the United States.”
In the most developed shale field, the Bakken field in North Dakota, production has leaped to 400,000 barrels a day today from a trickle four years ago. Experts say it could produce as much as a million barrels a day by the end of the decade.
The Eagle Ford, where the first well was drilled only three years ago, is already producing more than 100,000 barrels a day and could reach 420,000 by 2015, almost as much as Ecuador, according to Bentek Energy, a consultancy.
That’s only four years from now, but don’t start celebrating yet environmentalists are trying very hard to stop the use of fracking. According to a recent report released by Congressman Issa, the Obama administration is doing its best to make it difficult to use the fracking method of extracting oil and gas.
Despite the success of fracking, federal agencies appear to be in a race to see which one can regulate it first. The Department of Interior announced last November that it will consider regulating fracking on federal lands. The EPA, which concluded seven years ago that fracking “poses little or no threat” to drinking water supplies, is revisiting the issue. Having found no evidence that fracking chemicals reach drinking water, EPA now wants to study the entire lifecycle of the water used. In addition, DOE has convened a study group to review the fracking process. In a written statement, DOE Secretary Steven Chu stated, “I am looking forward to hearing from this diverse, respected group of experts on best practices for safe and responsible natural gas production.” Although the study groups members are certainly highly respected, a survey of their biographies indicates none has recent industry experience with the advancements in the technology.
Additional regulation of fracking is unnecessary because, as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson pointed out, fracking is not an unregulated activity. Federal regulation by EPA, DOE, and DOI would cause needless delay and uncertainty along with multiple additional layers of red tape. Ultimately, federal intervention will chill investment and decrease energy independence. Quite the opposite – the states, not the federal government, have always regulated the process and have done so with a solid track record. Officials in state after state have gone on the record to say that fracking has not caused any problems and any reports to the contrary are inaccurate.
Oh and there is that other “thing.” According to the Washington Examiner, the 3-inch dunes sagebrush lizard could hinder drilling in West Texas, as it could be named a new endangered species. If put on the list in December, drillers fear the lizard’s new status would slow down or halt drilling in the area.
Based on his track record of preventing drilling in the guild and the canceling of shale drilling contracts in Utah, it will not be surprising if President Obama finds a way to stop this drilling also.