Eagle Ford produces billionth barrel

HOUSTON — The Eagle Ford shale formation produced its billionth barrel some time last month, analysts at research firm Wood Mackenzie said Thursday.

That production figure includes crude oil and condensate, and more than 70 percent of that production has occurred in the last two years, according to the firm.

The milestone comes at a time when many in the industry have discussed plans to pull back on U.S. shale production, as plummeting crude oil prices is prompting a new period of financial restraint for some producers.

Ratings agency Moody’s, for example, said last month it expects exploration and production companies to cut capital spending budgets by about 20 percent in 2015.

The good news for the Eagle Ford is that many speculate that break-even price for production to remain profitable is around $50 in much of the play.

>West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark crude, fell 57 cents to $66.81 a barrel Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Wood Mackenzie projects exploration and production spending of $139.3 billion onshore in the U.S. next year. More money will be directed towards the Eagle Ford — about $30.8 billion — than any other play, according to the firm’s forecasts.

The region has had more than 10,000 completed wells and now accounts for 16 percent of the total U.S. oil production.

But what, exactly, the Eagle Ford will look like in the future is unclear today, said Cody Rice, a research analyst at Wood Mackenzie. Falling crude oil prices has caused speculation about the future of development in some U.S. shale plays.

For those with good acreage, the Eagle Ford still is a money maker, Rice said.

“If you’re a strong operator, you can expect to realize robust returns — even in the current price environment,” Rice said.