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'Monster' Wells Shunned in 2015, But Chesapeake, EP, EQT Still Ramp Up Gushers

Few U.S. onshore oil and natural gas producers were working to build "monster" wells in 2015 as they contracted budgets and reduced crews, but there still proved to be impressive results in a few key basins, according to Rystad Energy.

As expected, the number of oil wells that produced above expectations weren't on par with the scary gushers that ramped up between 2012 and 2014, said Rystad's Per Magnus Nysveen, head of analysis, in "The Prize of Drilling: Greatest Shale Wells of 2015." In fact, the "best well" as far as initial production (IP) rates would not make Rystad's Top 10 all-time list, he said.

However, a few producers still managed to ramp up some shining wells during the bleak days of 2015, based on public information analyzed by Rystad.

Leading the way on the oil side for "best wells" was Chesapeake Energy Corp.'s Burns Ranch M3H well in the Eagle Ford Shale in La Salle County, TX, which "produced an impressive average of 3,152 b/d of 39-degree light oil during the first 30 days," Nysveen said. Chesapeake's Eagle Ford output during 4Q2015 averaged 97,000 boe/d (see Shale DailyFeb. 24).

EP Energy had the No. 2 producing well, also in La Salle, with its Whitwell O Unit 45H, which produced over 30 days at a rate of 3,096 b/d. Penn Virginia Corp. had the third top well, the Dingo Unit 2H in Lavaca County, TX -- another Eagle Ford well -- with an IP rate of 3,007 b/d. Unit Corp. had the fourth best, with its Harper Thomas 1-19H, producing at an IP rate of 2,998 b/d in Grady County, TX.

Murphy Oil Corp.’s Armand Unit 3H in Karnes County, TX, was in at No. 5 with an IP rate of 2,996 b/d. And at No. 6 was QEP Resources’ Mabee Y UL H 3SS in Martin County TX, with an IP rate of 2,814 b/d.

Also nominated at No. 7 was EOG Resources Inc.'s Riverview 102-32H in the Bakken Shale in McKenzie County, ND, after producing 2,804 b/d. EOG CEO Bill Thomas had said in November that the Houston producer was "having a record year of well productivity improvements and cost reductions," and was drilling some of the "strongest horizontal wells in the industry" (see Shale DailyNov. 9, 2015).

Also scoring one of the best wells was Concho Resources Inc. at No. 8 with its W State 1204H, in the Permian Basin's Wolfcamp formation in Reeves County, TX, with an IP rate in the first 30 days of 2,579 b/d with 43-degree light oil.

BlackBrush Oil and Gas scored the ninth and 10th best wells, both in the Eagle Ford’s Karnes County. Yanta Et Al Unit 2H had an IP rate of 2,553 b/d, while Yanta Et Al Unit 5H was 2,470 b/d.

None of the wells turned to sales last year came close to what Nysveen said is the all-time high among the oil gushers, BHP Billiton's Butler B 5H well in the heart of Eagle Ford in DeWitt County, TX. It produced "a staggering 6,379 b/d of light oil and condensate during 30 days in 2014," he said.

On the natural gas side, eight of the top 10 natural gas wells were in the Haynesville Shale, which extends from North Louisiana into East Texas. Two were in Pennsylvania.

An EQT Corp. well drilled in the Utica Shale in Greene County, PA, was No. 1. According to Rystad data, the Scotts Run 591340 had an IP rate that averaged 40.95 MMcf/d (see Shale DailyJuly 23, 2015). A Chesapeake well in Caddo Parish, LA (HA RB SUK; RATZ 19&30-15-11 HC) produced 37.27 MMcf/d and was the second best in 2015.  At No. 3 was a Comstock well in DeSoto Parish, LA, which had an IP rate of 35.30 MMcf/d.

Chesapeake's HA RB SUK;Ratzburg 19015-11 H in Caddo had an IP rate of 31.15 MMcf/d to make it No. 4 on the list, while Comstock's HA RA SUI;HORN 8-17 HC in DeSoto was No. 5 with a rate of 30.97 MMcf/d. Chesapeake also had the sixth best gas well, also in DeSoto, HA RA SUW:NABORS 6&31-12-11 HC, 30.63 MMcf/d. Comstock returned the favor with the seventh best, again in DeSoto, with HA RA SUI;RAMSEY 7-18 HC, which produced at 29.25 MMcf/d over 30 days.

At No. 8 was Chesapeake's HA RA SUOC;Campbell 9-15-11 H in Bossier Parish, LA, with an IP rate of 28.70 MMcf/d. Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. had the No. 9 well, FOLTzJ 1 in Susquehanna County, PA, which had an IP rate of 28.56 MMcf/d. Rounding out the list of gas wells was Chesapeake, with a well in Red River County in East Texas. The HA RA SUG;BLOUNT 2&35-14-12 HC flowed initially at 27.60 MMcf/d.

Meanwhile, the oil wells completed in 2015 also used a lot of proppant during the fracturing process. In the class of "most sand pumped into the ground last year," QEP Resources Inc.'s State 5-36-TH well in McKenzie County in the Bakken was No. 1., with 13,423 metric tons of sand and ceramics "pumped into the vicinity of its fractures." Halliburton Co. serviced the well "using about 130 railcars and more than 500 trucks to transport the proppant to the drilling pad," Nysveen said.

Other nominees for the top proppant use were in the Permian's Midland sub-basin of Texas, "where we observed more than 13,000 metric tons of sand reported for Apache Corp.'s Spike S Unit H73M well in Wolfcamp Shale, Irion County, and a similar amount on Callon Petroleum Co.'s Pecan Acres 23 PSA 1 No. 1H well in Midland County." The two wells each had estimated completion costs of less than $7 million.

The all-time high for proppant in an onshore well remains Hess Corp.'s Hodenfield 15-7H well in the Bakken in Williams County, ND, "propped with nothing less than 17,822 metric tons of sand, or about 250 rail cars full," Nysveen said. The well was fractured in 2010 before Hess "switched to high-staged low-proppant completions.

"This well demonstrated an initial potential of 1,476 boe/d but had a collapsing production profile that resulted in the first year's average production of only 222 boe/d. Consequently, with high well cost, the breakeven oil price was higher than $100/bbl, and it can be inferred that this case served as one of the early reasons for the low proppant use philosophy of Hess," he said.

"Last year also gave us some of the most economic shale wells ever drilled in the U.S." the Rystad analyst said. "Outstanding wells have breakeven oil prices as low as $20-25/bbl."

Among the nominees in the class for the most profitable wells at current low oil prices is one of the Yanta wells in the Eagle Ford by privately held Blackbrush. The Yanta et Al Unit 5H well used 4,600 metric tons of sand at a total cost of $7.86 million. Also nominated was EOG's State Galileo 6H well, which produced 2,133 b/d of 45-degree light oil in the Permian's Bone Spring formation in Loving County, TX, using 3,430 metric tons of sand at a total cost of $5.44 million.

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