The Next Big Boom: The Cline Shale Play

In the past six months to a year, the talk about a newly discovered shale play in the West Texas region has been low key in comparison to the elections and supreme court cases, but oil and gas companies in the West Texas region are continuing to explore the Cline Shale play in hopes of what it contains. They are estimating that they have found the biggest shale formation in America, potentially [1]. The formation runs about 140 miles north and south and about 70 miles east to west [2]. Based on exploration in the region by Devon Energy, the estimates for recoverable reserves in the Cline Shale play could equate to as much as 30 billion barrels of oil [2]. To put this in perspective, the Eagle Ford has approximately 7 to 10 billion recoverable barrels and the Bakken shale has about 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil [2].  In fact some people in West Texas have been kicking the term “Saudi America” around to classify the West Texas region after hearing about the Cline Shale play’s potential [3].  It can be seen by the map below that the region the Cline shale encompasses is huge.

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The exploration in the Cline Shale has not been significantly explored enough for the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) to place the shale play in their Shale play maps of the United States, but the predictions is that it will be added to the map in the near future [4]. If this massive shale play is everything that Devon Energy and a few other oil and gas companies are predicting, the word “Saudi America” will be exactly right for the west Texas region with both wind and large shale energy to tap into [3]. Within eight years, it is predicted that the Eagle Ford and Bakken shale plays will produce more barrels of oil annually than Saudi Arabia, which has produced a little over 4 billion barrels of oil annually [5]. This means that the Cline shale, if as big as predicted, could become an even bigger producer of oil than the Eagle Ford and Bakken combined.

There are two major things that the Cline Shale region will have to overcome to make the shale play the next big boom: lack of housing and infrastructure in small towns and the lack of infrastructure for distribution of the liquid gas, especially on a global scale [1]. These two things can be overcome and are already being considered by firms in the region, so that if this shale play becomes the next big thing, they will be the first to reap the benefits. Another factor to consider that could become an obstacle (or it may not) are the potential restrictions by local, state, and federal government regulating bodies that could be placed on the oil and gas industry. The biggest regulation agency of oil and gas in the state of Texas is the Railroad Commission (RCC), which will be going under significant review in the Sunset Review and the Texas legislature this year. The Sunset Review will do an analysis about the RCC and recommend changes that the Texas Legislature should consider [6].
Judging by previous legislative trends and the proposed changes that are being discussed, it seems that little, if any regulations, from the Texas legislature will negatively effect the oil and gas industry in the near future. It is expected by an expert from Wood Mackenzie that in six months time the U.S. will know what the Cline Shale play has to offer [7]. The optimism of the industry implies that the estimates about the size of the Cline Shale play hold some accuracy, and it will be interesting to see what happens in the next six months in that area. I predict that if these estimations are right, we will be hearing the term, “Saudi America” a lot more in the coming year.

 

 

[1] http://www.marketwatch.com/story/investors-anticipate-what-could-be-the-largest-shale-play-in-american-history-2012-11-27

[2] http://www.mysanantonio.com/default/article/A-21st-century-oil-boom-in-the-Lone-Star-State-4303192.php

[3] http://www.reporternews.com/news/2013/feb/27/big-country-journal-cline-shale-could-turn-area/

[4] http://www.eia.gov/pub/oil_gas/natural_gas/analysis_publications/maps/maps.htm

[5]http://theclineshale.com/The_Cline_Shale/News/Entries/2013/2/4_Big_Country_Communities_Bracing_for_Cline_Shale_Boom.html

[6] http://fuelfix.com/blog/2013/03/28/legislature-tackles-revamping-the-railroad-commission/

[7] http://fuelfix.com/blog/2013/02/24/west-texas-shale-could-dwarf-eagle-ford/

Map Source: http://www.ogj.com/articles/print/volume-111/issue-02/general-interest/industry-optimistic-on-cline-shale.html

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