Data, Stats, News & Info

Delaware Basin Data, History & Stats

This guide provides information about the Delaware Basin: oil and gas data, history, top operators, and other facts.

Counties

Overview

Delaware Basin Oil and Gas

The Delaware Basin, as part of the larger Permian Basin, became the most prolific oil-producing region in the United States, and perhaps the most important oilfield in the world today.

The Delaware Basin’s prominent role in the Permian Basin has made it a crucial player in the energy sector, attracting substantial investment and attention from the oil and gas industry.

Delaware Basin: Subbasin of the largest oil-producing region in the US.

The region has been producing for nearly a century and still contains massive resources of oil and gas. In April of 2022, The Permian Basin accounted for 43.6% of oil production within the U.S. and nearly 15% of gas production. 

What is the Delaware Basin?

The Delaware Basin is a geological province located in the southwestern United States, stretching across parts of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. It is part of the larger Permian Basin, one of the most prolific oil and gas regions in the world. 

The Delaware Basin covers an extensive area of approximately 10,000 square miles (26,000 square kilometers). It spans across several counties in Texas, including Loving, Reeves, Ward, Winkler, and Culberson, as well as portions of southeastern New Mexico, including Lea and Eddy counties. Major cities within or near the basin include Midland and Odessa in Texas and Carlsbad in New Mexico.

Horizontal Rig Count

Permian Sub-basins - Source: Baker Hughes

The Delaware Basin: History, Data and Facts

The Delaware Basin has a rich geological and human history that spans hundreds of millions of years. Formed through complex geological processes, the basin’s origins can be traced back to ancient tectonic activity before the time of the dinosaurs, in the Permian period. A complex interplay of continental collision and oceanic subduction along North America’s southern and western edges caused mountain and basin formation in what are known today as the “Ancestral Rockies.” Into the Delaware basin poured sediment and organic matter that millions of years later became hydrocarbons. 

Today, the Delaware Basin stands as one of the most productive oil and natural gas regions in the United States, contributing to the nation’s energy supply and playing a vital role in the economy of the surrounding regions.

When and how did it start?

Oil production in the Delaware Basin has a rich history that dates back to the early 1900s. Initial exploration activities in the region targeted shallow oil reservoirs. However, a significant milestone in the basin’s history occurred in 1926 with the discovery of the Big Lake Oil Field in Reagan County, Texas. This discovery marked the first major oil field in the Delaware Basin and ignited the region’s oil production boom.

Over the years, advancements in drilling technology, particularly the development of horizontal drilling techniques, transformed the basin’s oil production capabilities. Horizontal drilling, combined with hydraulic fracturing methods, enabled operators to tap into the vast hydrocarbon resources locked within the basin’s shale formations. 

Although the unconventional revolution came later to the Delaware Basin than it did in the Bakken or Eagle Ford, the Delaware has become the highest-producing unconventional oil region in the world. At around 3 million barrels of oil a day, the Delaware would be the tenth-highest producing country in the world on its own.

Big-Lake-Texas
Horizontal Well Daily Oil Production [bo/d]
Number of horizontal wells with reported production, by state

Top counties [March 2013 - March 2023]

Horizontal Well Daily Oil Production [bo/d] of the top Counties
Ranking County State Horizontal Well Count - March 2023 Daily Production (bo/d) - March 2023
1 Lea New Mexico 4,938 967,436
2 Eddy (NM) New Mexico 5,010 705,632
3 Reeves Texas 4,423 456,397
4 Loving Texas 2,958 448,071
5 Ward (TX) Texas 1,211 109,718
6 Culberson Texas 996 104,927
7 Pecos Texas 688 65,537
8 Winkler Texas 347 37,652
9 Jeff Davis (TX) Texas 1 0

Top 50 oil operators [March 2013 - March 2023]

Horizontal Well Daily Oil Production [bo/d] of the Top 50 operators
Ranking Operator State Horizontal Well Count - March 2023 Daily Production (Bo/d) - March 2023
1 EOG Texas & New Mexico 2,368 404,458
2 Occidental Texas & New Mexico 1,963 336,821
3 Devon Energy Texas & New Mexico 2,061 263,060
4 ConocoPhillips Texas & New Mexico 2,610 240,272
5 Mewbourne Oil Texas & New Mexico 1,139 228,396
6 Exxon Mobil Texas & New Mexico 979 199,905
7 Coterra Energy Texas & New Mexico 1,102 141,633
8 Chevron Texas & New Mexico 975 115,700
9 Tap Rock Resources Texas & New Mexico 328 98,642
10 Permian Resources Texas & New Mexico 750 92,847
11 Matador Resources Company Texas & New Mexico 583 86,382
12 Kaiser Francis New Mexico 159 76,896
13 Diamondback Texas & New Mexico 692 70,896
14 Earthstone Energy Texas & New Mexico 248 61,475
15 Callon Texas  516 50,243
16 BTA Oil Texas & New Mexico 240 39,427
17 Continental Resources Texas  350 38,317
18 Franklin Mountain Energy New Mexico 70 34,260
19 BP Texas  282 31,826
20 Marathon New Mexico 167 27,717
21 PRI Operating Texas  177 21,933
22 Apache Texas & New Mexico 593 20,595
23 PDC Texas  144 17,222
24 Tall City Texas  65 16,007
25 Spur Energy New Mexico 135 14,945
26 Vital Energy Texas  108 14,183
27 Battalion Oil Texas  110 8,756
28 Lime Rock Resources Texas & New Mexico 135 8,149
29 Rio Oil & Gas Texas  46 7,795
30 Upcurve Energy Texas  44 7,763
31 Point Energy Partners Texas  75 7,146
32 Ameredev Texas & New Mexico 46 6,034
33 Circle-S Energy Texas  32 5,500
34 Blue Ox Resources Operating Texas  13 5,446
35 Ascent Resources New Mexico 25 5,254
36 Avant Natural Resources New Mexico 10 4,830
37 Capitan Energy Texas  75 4,489
38 Gordy Oil Texas  42 4,311
39 Longfellow Energy New Mexico 16 4,180
40 Maple Energy Holdings Texas  74 4,141
41 Caza Operating New Mexico 53 3,961
42 Bosque Texas Oil Texas  8 3,545
43 CP Exploration III Texas  21 3,441
44 Petro-Hunt Texas  106 3,381
45 Manti Texas  40 3,249
46 Revenir Energy New Mexico 48 2,360
47 US Energy Development Texas  23 2,256
48 Henry Resources Texas  33 2,190
49 Marshall & Winston New Mexico 12 1,836
50 Pecos River Exploration Texas  24 1,703

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The Delaware Gas Production

When and how did it start?

Natural gas production in the Delaware Basin has a parallel history alongside oil production. Gas wells were drilled as early as the 1920s, and natural gas has been produced in the region primarily for local and regional consumption. However, the true uprise in natural gas production came with the advancement of unconventional oil developments. In the Delaware, the vast majority of the gas is “associated gas” produced as a byproduct of oil production. 

Alongside its ~3 million barrels of oil a day, the Delaware produces >12 billion cubic feet of gas a day, nearly as much as the Haynesville. This tremendous supply of gas has contributed significantly to the rise in the US’s domestic production and ability to ship LNG internationally. Alongside the rise in dry natural gas production, the Delaware Basin also experienced a surge in natural gas liquids (NGLs) production.

NGLs, such as ethane, propane, and butane, are extracted from the natural gas stream and have diverse industrial applications. The growth of natural gas production in the Delaware Basin has also led to the development of infrastructure for natural gas exports. Pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities have been constructed to transport and export natural gas from the basin to domestic and international markets.

Gas production over the last 10 years

Horizontal Well Daily Gas Production [Mcf/d]
Number of wells with reported production, by state

Top counties [March 2013 - March 2023]

Horizontal Well Daily Gas Production [Mcf/d] of the Top Counties
Ranking County State Horizontal Well Count - March 2023 Daily Production (Mc/d) - March 2023
1 Eddy (NM) New Mexico 5,010 3.756,242
2 Reeves Texas 4,423 2.909,168
3 Lea New Mexico 4,938 2.768,236
4 Loving Texas 2,958 1.482,279
5 Culberson Texas 996 1.159,337
6 Ward (TX) Texas 1,211 370,949
7 Pecos Texas 688 166,044
8 Winkler Texas 347 79,644
9 Jeff Davis (TX) Texas 1 0

Top 50 natural gas operators [March 2013 - March 2023]

Horizontal Well Daily Gas Production [Mcf/d] of the Top 50 Operators
Ranking County State Horizontal Well Count - March 2023 Daily Production (Mcf/d) - March 2023
1 EOG Texas & New Mexico 2,368 1.698,639
2 Devon Energy Texas & New Mexico 2,061 1.188,930
3 Occidental Texas & New Mexico 1,963 1.145,230
4 Exxon Mobil Texas & New Mexico 979 995,611
5 Coterra Energy Texas & New Mexico 1,102 958,317
6 ConocoPhillips Texas & New Mexico 2,610 957,687
7 Mewbourne Oil Texas & New Mexico 1,139 857,239
8 Chevron Texas & New Mexico 975 701,867
9 Apache Texas & New Mexico 593 442,296
10 Permian Resources Texas & New Mexico 750 432,742
11 Tap Rock Resources Texas & New Mexico 328 387,341
12 Matador Resources Company Texas & New Mexico 583 362,464
13 Earthstone Energy Texas 248 291,253
14 Diamondback Texas & New Mexico 692 265,886
15 BP Texas 282 231,874
16 Kaiser Francis New Mexico 159 221,557
17 Callon Texas 516 177,642
18 BTA Oil Texas & New Mexico 240 163,064
19 PDC Texas 144 127,854
20 Marathon New Mexico 167 90,029
21 Rio Oil & Gas Texas 46 86,882
22 Continental Resources Texas & New Mexico 350 68,704
23 Capitan Energy Texas 75 64,132
24 Franklin Mountain Energy New Mexico 70 56,786
25 Petro-Hunt Texas 106 54,261
26 PRI Operating Texas 177 45,026
27 Battalion Oil Texas 110 42,787
28 Tall City Texas 65 39,095
29 CP Exploration III Texas 21 35,795
30 Ameredev Texas & New Mexico 46 35,107
31 Upcurve Energy Texas 44 34,851
32 Maple Energy Holdings Texas 74 34,415
33 Spur Energy New Mexico 135 32,415
34 Vital Energy Texas 108 32,357
35 Lime Rock Resources Texas & New Mexico 135 28,857
36 Point Energy Partners Texas 75 21,228
37 1920 Energy Texas 20 17,852
38 US Energy Development Texas 23 15,092
39 Bosque Texas Oil Texas 8 13,808
40 Caza Operating New Mexico 53 13,167
41 Circle-S Energy Texas 32 12,092
42 Gordy Oil Texas 42 11,598
43 Encore Texas 16 11,485
44 Murchison Oil & Gas New Mexico 54 10,785
45 Alchemist Energy Texas 11 10,211
46 Revenir Energy New Mexico 48 8,528
47 Ascent Resources New Mexico 25 8,322
48 Manti Texas 40 5,943
49 BC New Mexico 35 5,904
50 Rover Petroleum Texas 5 4,252

Natural resources in the Delaware Basin

In addition to its primary hydrocarbon resources, the Delaware Basin is known to contain various other natural resources. Sylvite, Langbeinite, Halite (rock salt), Sulfur, and Uranium have been identified within the basin.

Sylvite, discovered in 1925, has been utilized for the production of potassium salts, commonly known as Potash. Halite, a byproduct of potash mining, has also been extracted. These minerals were deposited as evaporites after the Permian seas that formed the Wolfcamp and Bone Spring formations dried up, leaving behind thousands of feet of mineral-rich strata. Notably, the Carlsbad area in New Mexico has served as a prominent potash district, supplying a significant portion of the potassium produced in the United States.

Due to the strategic importance of Potash to fertilizer supply, the federal government has protected “Designated Potash Districts”. In these areas, oil and gas operators must follow more stringent surface regulations to ensure that both hydrocarbon and potassium resources can be responsibly developed. 

The Delaware Basin formations

The Delaware Basin is a sedimentary basin that originated during the Paleozoic era. It was primarily formed as a result of tectonic activity and the accumulation of sediment over millions of years. The basin’s formation can be attributed to the subsidence of the Earth’s crust, creating a depression where sediments were deposited.

Delaware Basin is a complex and dynamic geological feature, characterized by variations in its sub-basins, structural features, and stratigraphy.

Major formations:

Delaware Mountain Group

The Delaware Mountain Group is composed of a sequence of Permian-age sedimentary rocks, including limestone, dolomite, sandstone, and shale. This group includes various sub-formations, such as the Yeso Formation and the Glorieta Sandstone. The Delaware Mountain Group serves as a reservoir rock for oil and gas production in some areas of the basin.

Leonardian Series

The Leonardian Series is a group of Permian-age formations including hte Bone Spring and Avalon. These formations consist of interbedded sandstones, shales, and limestones. Prospectivity varies significantly around the basin. 

Avalon Shale

The Avalon Shale is an organic-rich shale formation found within the Leonardian Series. It is known for its hydrocarbon potential and serves as a source rock for oil and gas. The Avalon Shale has been a target for exploration and production activities within the Delaware Basin.

Bone Spring Formation

The Bone Spring Formation is a composite formation that consists of several members, including the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Bone Spring members. It is primarily composed of sandstones, shales, and limestones. The Bone Spring Formation serves as both a source rock and a reservoir rock, containing significant hydrocarbon resources.

Wolfcamp Formation

The Wolfcamp Formation is a prominent hydrocarbon-bearing unit within the Delaware Basin. It is a layered formation that includes various lithologies, such as shale, siltstone, sandstone, and limestone. The formation is divided into three main subdivisions: the Upper, Middle, and Lower Wolfcamp. The Wolfcamp Formation is known for its abundant organic-rich shales that have served as source rocks for the generation and migration of oil and gas. It also contains reservoir rocks within the formation itself or in adjacent units.

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