Continental Resources Inc. said it plans to add two completion crews to the Bakken Shale after posting strong results from enhanced completions tests in the play during the third quarter.

Meanwhile, as Continental looks to work through its inventory of drilled but uncompleted (DUC) wells in the Bakken, results from an eight-well Meramec density test in the overpressured oil window of the STACK (short for the Sooner Trend of the Anadarko Basin, mostly in Canadian and Kingfisher counties) show a promising future drilling in the Midcontinent, management told analysts during a 3Q2016 conference call last week.

In announcing its third quarter results, the Oklahoma City-based exploration and production (E&P) company raised its full-year 2016 production guidance to 215,000-220,000 boe/d, up from 210,000-220,000 boe/d in August. The company also raised its 2016 capital expenditure guidance to $1.1 billion from $920 million.

Management said the E&P will be going from two to four stimulation crews in the Bakken as it continues to test enhanced completion designs. The company touted record 30-day production rates for its 9,900-foot-lateral Brangus North and 13,800-foot-lateral Rath Federal wells, both completed with higher proppant volumes of up to 1,000 pounds/lateral foot. Brangus North produced 51,800 boe (86% weighted to oil) in its first 30 days, while Rath Federal produced 43,300 boe (84% oil), the E&P said.

Continental operated four drilling rigs in the Bakken during the quarter, with no plans to increase that number given its drilled but uncompleted (DUC) inventory, CEO Harold Hamm said.

“We’re not looking at increasing rig activity” in the Bakken, he said. “We’ve got a lot of uncompleted wells here, and we made the decision that once the fundamentals had shown that supply and demand had balanced, then we’re confident on oil prices, and so, we start moving forward.

“That’s why we contracted two more crews and got everything going. We feel confident where we’re at with prices and our efficiency and making this capital investment up there. We feel confident in the direction we’re going.”

Continental expects to end 2016 with 175 gross operated DUCs in the Bakken and around 45 gross operated DUCs in Oklahoma. The operator said the Bakken total excludes 15 wells it plans to stimulate during the fourth quarter but won’t put to sales until 2017.

In the STACK, an eight-well Meramec spacing test, including seven new wells and the original Ludwig 1-22-15XH well, produced a combined peak 24-hour rate of 21,354 boe/d, with a combined peak of 18,572 boe/d for the seven new wells in the unit. The original Ludwig well has continued to produce 815 boe/d 338 days in for a total 298,000 boe, the company said.

The Ludwig spacing test consisted of four Upper Meramec and four Middle Meramec wells with average laterals of 9,700 feet. The wells were spaced 1,320 feet apart in the same zone and 660 feet apart between zones, with 100 feet of vertical separation, according to the E&P. Average costs for the wells totaled $7.8 million/well, compared with $11.1 million for the initial Ludwig well, which Continental attributed to the efficiencies of multi-well pad drilling.

The Ludwig unit wells would generate a rate of return over 100% at $50/bbl West Texas Intermediate and $3/Mcf, Continental said.

Moving forward, Hamm said the E&P anticipates “slow but steady growth in both supply and demand, with prices moving gradually higher.” No matter what action the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) takes, he said, “we believe world energy markets are at a turning point.

“For the first time since OPEC was founded 56 years ago, markets are increasingly driven by free market forces. Foreign producers will have less power to manipulate the crude oil market because there are multiple sources for supplied capacity growth, most notably the leading U.S. shale plays.”

Total production from Continental’s STACK/Northwest Cana acreage averaged 17,680 boe/d in the third quarter, up 21% from 14,610 boe/d in the second quarter. Production in the SCOOP (South Central Oklahoma Oil Province) averaged 67,462 boe/d, up from 64,669 boe/d in the second quarter. Continental said it has 11 operated rigs running in the STACK and that it operated an average of four rigs in the SCOOP during 3Q2016.

Third quarter Bakken production declined sequentially, with North Dakota Bakken output averaging 99,251 boe/d, down from 114,554 boe/d in the second quarter. Continental said it curtailed Bakken production by around 12,000 net boe/d in August and September in response to commodity prices, with the curtailed volumes brought back online at the end of 3Q2016.

Total third quarter production across all Continental operating areas was 19.1 million boe, or 207,840 boe/d, down 5% from the second quarter and down 9% year/year.

Average sales prices for the quarter, excluding hedges, were $37.66/bbl for crude oil and $2.02/Mcf for natural gas, compared with year-ago sales prices of $38.95/bbl for oil and $2.23/Mcf for gas.

Continental posted a net loss of $109.6 million for the quarter (minus 22 cents/share), compared with a net loss of $82.4 million (minus 12 cents/share) in the year-ago quarter.

Production expenses averaged $3.50/boe, down from $4/boe in 3Q2016, with general and administrative expenses averaging $2.32/boe in the third quarter, compared with $2.56/boe in 3Q2015.