What might the oil- and gas-rich Eagle Ford Shale region of South Texas look like in 2018?
A newly released but largely unnoticed study commissioned by the state of Texas makes some striking projections:
The number of wells drilled in the 20,000-square-mile region could quadruple, from about 8,000 today to 32,000.
- Oil production could leap from 363 million barrels per year to as much as 761 million.
- Airborne releases of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) could increase 281 percent during the peak ozone season compared to 2012 emissions. VOCs, commonly found at oil and gas production sites, can cause respiratory and neurological problems. Some, like benzene, can cause cancer.
- Nitrogen oxides—which react with VOCs in sunlight to create ground-level ozone, the main component of smog—could increase 69 percent during the peak ozone season.
These projections are included in a study prepared by scientists with the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) in San Antonio and paid for by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The study was designed to determine the extent to which oil and gas development in the Eagle Ford region is contributing to rising ozone levels in the San Antonio metropolitan area, which lies north of much of the drilling. San Antonio's ozone readings have violated federal air quality standards since August 2012, making the city vulnerable to sanctions under the Clean Air Act.
The study's findings also have implications beyond San Antonio…