By the end of this year, Texas’ oil production could exceed the output of every OPEC country but Saudi Arabia. The state’s production, driven mainly by the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas and the Permian Basin in West Texas, will reach about 3.4 million barrels per day, propelling Texas past Iraq and Iran, said Greg Leveille, manager for technology program-unconventional reservoirs at ConocoPhillips. Among non-OPEC countries, only Russia, the United States as a whole, China and Canada would exceed Texas’ oil production, making the state the world’s sixth-largest producer. « This is the greatest comeback story you can possibly imagine, » Leveille said Tuesday at the Eagle Ford Consortium conference in San Antonio. Leveille said the high crude oil content of the Eagle Ford and the high level of returns that Houston-based ConocoPhillips and other operators are seeing mean it has the greatest potential of all U.S. shale fields. « The Eagle Ford is by far the most important unconventional reservoir play in North America today, » Leveille said. The ConocoPhillips forecast set the stage for this week’s conference, where talk turned to the future of the Eagle Ford, the potential for oil and gas production in neighboring Mexico and sustainable development – basically the idea that no one in South Texas wants to end up living in a post-bust ghost town. « Everybody talks about the boom and bust, » said Leodoro Martinez, head of the Eagle Ford Consortium, a group of elected officials, companies and residents. « We want to talk about the boom without having a bust. » Tuesday, several officials said they hate even the word « boom. » « After a big explosion, what’s left? » asked Bruce Pearson, city manager of Pleasanton. « Nothing. I prefer to think of the Eagle Ford opportunity. » Leveille said the region will see « decades and decades of production. » ConocoPhillips in the last year has added 1,000 planned drilling locations. It now plans 3,000 wells on 221,000 acres in the Eagle Ford, where it’s running 12 rigs and will spend $3 billion this year. « What you’re seeing unfold in the Eagle Ford is probably the greatest energy success story we will see in the 21st century, » Leveille said.