Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources Inc., a major producer in the Bakken Shale, released plans Wednesday for $1.95 billion in capital expenditures this year that are expected to boost overall production to an average of 220,000-230,000 boe/d, compared to an average 217,000 boe/d last year.
Production is expected to be modest in the first half of the year but "significantly accelerate" in the second half, coinciding with the timing of pad completions in the Bakken and six new multi-well density projects in "the over-pressured oil window" of Oklahoma's STACK (Sooner Trend of the Anadarko Basin, mostly in Canadian and Kingfisher counties) play, the company said. Bakken well completions are expected to drive growth.
"We are capitalizing on the exceptional performance delivered by our operating teams the last two years," said Continental CEO Harold Hamm, who served as an adviser to President Donald Trump's election campaign last year. Hamm predicted "multiple years of double-digit production growth."
Analysts pointed out that the estimates for the first half of this year are below previous guidance but the second half would exceed past predictions, leading to robust growth in 2018 and beyond. "The second half of 2017 production should show a significant upswing and lead to 20% production growth in the following years," said Jason Wangler, an analyst with Wunderlich Securities Inc.
Wangler highlighted Continental's plans for ramping up in the Williston Basin in North Dakota and also focusing more on the STACK "as the play continues to show its strength.”
Jefferies LLC analysts said the improving Bakken well rates in terms of higher ultimate recovery per well from higher intensity hydraulic fracturing "are driving strong company projected exit rates for 2017 and 2018, and we still see further upside."
While Continental's 4Q2016 production averaged 210,000 boe/d in the face of persistent severe weather from November through year's end, production in the second half of this year is expected to reach the 250,000-260,000 boe/d level.
"Of the total $1.95 billion capex budget, Continental is allocating $1.72 billion to drilling and completion activities, with the remainder planned to be invested in other opportunities including leasehold and facilities," the company said. At an average crude oil price of $55/bbl for this year, the capex budget is cash-neutral, and at $60/bbl it would generate an added $200 million of cash, executives said.
Continental said it plans to complete 131 gross (100 net) operated wells out of its Bakken drilled-but-uncompleted (DUC) well inventory, with first production commencing by year's end. In addition, Continental plans to complete with first production approximately 17 gross (eight net) newly drilled Bakken wells in 2017.
At the end of this year, the company expects to have 140 Bakken wells in inventory, of which 72 gross (40 net) wells will be completed but waiting on first sales and 68 gross (47 net) operated wells will be waiting on completion.
In Oklahoma, Continental indicated that it expects to complete 132 gross (70 net) operated wells with first production in 2017, including 98 gross (50 net) operated wells in STACK and 34 gross (20 net) operated wells in the South Central Oklahoma Oil Province (SCOOP) play.
For the second half of 2017 and on into 2018, Continental's outlook "achieves among the best debt-adjusted growth in the space," said Phillip Jungwirth, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets, who noted that the company thinks it can grow production by more than 20% in the 2018-20 period.
Jungwirth noted that Bakken DUCs will be reduced by the end of this year to 140, compared to 175 at the end of 2016, but that is less of a reduction than earlier expected. Even with increased drilling/completions, costs-per-well are expected to go down to $7.3 million, compared to $8 million/well that had been modeled.
As part of its increased focus on Oklahoma, Continental said it plans to operate an average of 16 rigs this year, of which 11 rigs will be in the STACK targeting the Meramec and Woodford formations, and five rigs will be drilling in the SCOOP. Plans call for averaging four completion crews in Oklahoma and to have an expected average working interest in STACK of approximately 57%, compared to an average 42% working interest in 2016.
Continental's new wells in its Oklahoma plays typically generate rates of return ranging from 55% to more than 100% at $55/bbl WTI and $3.50/Mcf of natural gas.