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Niobrara 'Another Bakken' for Whiting Petroleum

While reporting that its Williston Basin North Dakota production reached record levels above 100,000 boe/d in 1Q2014, Whiting Petroleum Corp. executives early this month trumpeted the potential of the company’s Denver Julesburg (DJ) Basin play in Colorado as potentially duplicating the Williston growth.

"There is nothing that we have seen that would deter us from applying more and more capital and greater numbers of drilling rigs [in the Niobrara] as we move forward," said CEO Jim Volker, during an earnings conference call.

Despite some winter slowdowns, Whiting's operations in the DJ Basin have "ramped up completions, and production is rising nicely," Volker said. Current plans call for drilling eight wells/spacing unit in two different zones (A and B) in the Niobrara formation, he said.

In addition in May, Whiting will test a high-density, 32-well/spacing unit pattern in another part of the Niobrara. Whiting's total potential drilling locations in one area of the DJ (Redtail) could increase to more than 6,600 gross wells, Volker said.

"This is the potential for another Bakken for us; [the Niobrara] has all of those same things going for us," Volker said. "We couldn't have found an oilfield in a better place in terms of takeaway capacity, lack of an urban population [two people per square mile], and the greatest thing is the county [Weld] and the ranchers and farmers from whom we lease want us in the area because they are the mineral rights owners."

Volker said Whiting intends to be a "good neighbor" in the Colorado play, "capturing all of the gas, processing it, and maximizing the value of the gas stream."

Denver-based Whiting began in 2012 building its presence in the Williston Basin by purchasing some acreage in North Dakota and Montana, along with the Niobrara/DJ Basin formations last year (see Shale Daily, Aug. 28, 2013). The Bakken Shale has become Whiting's primary focus.

As of the end of last year, Whiting owned nearly 715,000 net unconventional acres in the Bakken/Sanish/Three Forks. The company has another 88,000 net acres in the Niobrara/DJ Basin and 69,000 net acres in the Permian Basin's Wolfcamp/Wolfbone.

Whiting intends to spread out to the west and northeast within the Niobrara, and it has been experimenting with new completion technologies that Volker and operating executives said should increase overall production and efficiency in all of its operating areas.

Whiting reported 1Q2014 profits of $109 million ($1.06/share) compared to $85.9 million (94 cents/share) for the same period in 2013.

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