Energy Intensity and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Oil Production in the Eagle Ford Shale
Journal article, 2017
A rapid increase in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in shale and “tight” formations that began around 2000 has resulted in record increases in oil and natural gas production in the U.S. This study examines energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from crude oil and natural gas produced from ∼8,200 wells in the Eagle Ford Shale in southern Texas from 2009 to 2013. Our system boundary includes processes from primary exploration wells to the refinery entrance gate (henceforth well-to-refinery or WTR). The Eagle Ford includes four distinct production zones—black oil (BO), volatile oil (VO), condensate (C), and dry gas (G) zones—with average monthly gas-to-liquids ratios (thousand cubic feet per barrel—Mcf/bbl) varying from 0.91 in the BO zone to 13.9 in the G zone. Total energy consumed in drilling, extracting, processing, and operating an Eagle Ford well is ∼1.5% of the energy content of the produced crude and gas in the BO and VO zones, compared with 2.2% in the C and G zones. On average, the WTR GHG emissions of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel derived from crude oil produced in the BO and VO zones in the Eagle Ford play are 4.3, 5.0, and 5.1 gCO2e/MJ, respectively. Comparing with other known conventional and unconventional crude production where upstream GHG emissions are in the range 5.9–30 gCO2e/MJ, oil production in the Eagle Ford has lower WTR GHG emissions.