A second natural gas well with double-digit initial production rates may confirm a gusher in the Niobrara formation, WPX Energy Inc. reported Monday.

The well posted an initial production rate of 11.8 MMcf/d at a flowing casing pressure of 5,700 psi.  To optimize the performance of the reservoir, the well, completed at the end of September since has been choked back to 8 MMcf/d at 5,400 psi. The well was drilled to a total vertical depth of 9,062 feet with a 4,883-foot horizontal lateral and 19 hydraulically fractured stages.

"We are executing on our plan to delineate our Niobrara discovery as quickly and prudently as possible," said CEO said Ralph A. Hill. "This aligns with our strength in efficient, large-scale production to build out our long-term horizon of drilling opportunities. Our second well came online even stronger than we expected. It was significantly over-pressured and is delivering another strong performance following our discovery well."

WPX acreage in the Niobrara formation "is at its shallowest where we drilled the second well," said Hill. "We believe this will coincide with the lowest reservoir pressures we'll encounter in the play if our assumptions about the geology and pore pressures hold true over time."

WPX's discovery well in the play earlier this year was something to shout about. The well initially produced 16 MMcf/d at 7,300 psi and registered an average production rate of almost 10 MMcf/d during the first 90 days (see Shale Daily,April 9). Over the first 10 months, the initial discovery produced 2 Bcf of gas and output currently is at a rate of 3.5 MMcf/d.

The second well is three miles to the southeast of the initial well, WPX noted.

"The Unconventional Oil & Gas Center ranks WPX's discovery well as the No. 1 Niobrara producing well in the United States," noted the producer. "WPX's latest well will rank No. 2."

A third Niobrara horizontal well was drilled during July and August about 2,000 feet to the west of the initial discovery well. A potential sidetrack lateral is being considered to resolve a technical issue that was experienced before completion operations began, the producer said.

From the discovery well to the third well, WPX reduced drilling times by 43% to 52 days from 92 days. "Drilling on the initial discovery well included the successful recovery of 535 feet of continuous core to assist the company's geoscience team in better understanding the play," according to management.

Two additional Niobrara wells are scheduled to be spud in November. One is a horizontal test three miles north of the first well and one is a vertical delineation 12 miles to the east.

"These efforts are serving to prove up acreage, confirm the repeatability of the play, drive down development costs and help us determine the right well spacing and density," said Hill. "The Niobrara potential presents an exciting opportunity for WPX."

WPX already planned to more than double its Niobrara drilling plans in 2014, with 10-12 wells (see Shale Daily,June 6). Combined with previous activity in Western Colorado, the wells in 2014 would delineate 80% of the operator's acreage in the Piceance Valley. The 2013 exit rate from Piceance operations was revised upward in June to 730 MMcfe/d from 701 MMcfe/d, which WPX said was in line with overall company guidance of 1,261-1,265 MMcfe/d.

WPX controls the leasing rights to about 180,000 net acres of the Niobrara/Mancos Shale that underlies its position in the Piceance Basin.