Oil and gas drilling activity in the Zavala county portion of the Eagle Ford Shale play has diminished in recent months with the primary focus of activity being farther to the south in counties such as Dimmit and LaSalle. Those counties have a much larger footprint in the “wet gas and condensate” and “volatile oil windows” of the play. Most of the county of Zavala lies in the “heavy oil” portion of the Eagle Ford Shale, which is part of the Maverick Basin. Here the GOR or “gas to oil ratio” is lower, meaning there is less natural gas in the formation to help release oil from the tight pore structure of the rock. Currently this part of the shale is not being as sought after, as higher producing wells are being made in the over – pressured sections of the play to the south and east, where the GOR ratio is higher. Last year Petrohawk Energy (which was acquired by BHP Billiton,) considered the Red Hawk field in Zavala county one of the company’s “crown jewels”. Red Hawk has all but been abandoned as far as drilling activity is concerned. This began when Petrohawk Energy began to run out of operating capital. No doubt there will be renewed interest in the heavy oil portion of the Eagle Ford shale in Zavala and Maverick from the major players, but for now, if the exploration company has “volatile oil” or “wet gas” acreage to drill, that’s where their rigs are going to go. So far the Texas Railroad Commission has issued approximately 40 permits for horizontal Eagle Ford Shale wells in Zavala County in 2012 (as of April 26.) The primary oil and gas exploration companies who are drilling in Zavala include Chesapeake Operating, CML Exploration, Eagleford Energy Inc, Hess Corporation, Matador Production Company, Petrohawk Operating and Dan A Hughes Co.
Map of Zavala County Eagle Ford Shale. (Click On Any Of The Images Below To View At Full Size.)
Below, map of Petrohawk’s Red Hawk Field.
For many years Crystal City was known as the “Spinach Capital Of The World.” “Wintergarden” vegetable farms around the area still produce much of the nation’s supply of Popeye’s favorite vegetable. Crystal City has not completely taken on the feel of an “oilfield town” just yet, as has Carrizo Springs, located in Dimmit County just a few miles to the south. There is however a noticeable increase in the amount of traffic on area roads and a number of new businesses such as RV parks in southern Zavala County. One such new park is the Caza Ranch RV park, which can be seen below, located on the Big Wells Highway, just south of Crystal City.
Below is a map from the Texas Railroad Commission showing some of the drilling activity in Zavala County, south of Crystal City.
What’s in store for Zavala County in terms of Eagle Ford Shale drilling? Although Zavala county Eagle Ford shale wells typically have lower EUR (Estimated Ultimate Recovery) and lower IP (Initial Production) rates, they are cheaper to drill, since the formation lies at around 4000′. There is no doubt that the major oil and gas companies will return to the county in earnest at some point. In Zavala county there exists favorable geology for “stacked pay” opportunities, with the Escondido, Olmos, San Miguel, Anacacho, Austin Chalk, Eagle Ford shale, Buda and Georgetown formations prospective for hydrocarbons. Currently some companies with leases in Zavala County may let the primary term of the lease expire and pay landowners an additional bonus payment to hold the acreage for a couple more years until they can shift rigs back in this direction. Some of the Eagle Ford Shale acreage in Zavala County is held by production from older oil and gas wells. We may see more drilling activity in Zavala County in the latter part of this year as oil and gas companies drill to hold acreage on larger parcels where they may find it too costly to pay extra lease bonus payments to hold the land for a couple more years.
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