Petrohawk Energy Corp. announced Tuesday that test wells using a new flow-channel fracturing technique called HiWAY — created by Houston-based Schlumberger Ltd. — yielded increased production and it plans to expand use of the technology.

Petrohawk, also based in Houston, is focused on the Haynesville Shale play in North Louisiana and Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas. In November the company said it would focus more on the Eagle Ford, which contains natural gas liquids (NGL) and high-condensate shale (see Shale Daily, Nov. 4, 2010).

The company began performing HiWAY tests at 10-12 wells in the Hawkville Field area of the Eagle Ford Shale play last October. The technique — which combines fit-for-purpose fracture modeling, fracturing fluids and high-frequency proppant pulsations — creates flow channels within the fracture network and is claimed to increase the overall stimulated reservoir volume and permeability.

Petrohawk said that at four of the test wells, HiWAY yielded a 37% increase in average production in areas with gas and NGLs, and an average of about 32% in high-condensate yield areas. Petrohawk also reported, based on internal estimates, that estimated ultimate recovery figures from the limited trial would be 25-90% higher compared to offsetting wells completed with conventional fracturing techniques.

“This is a breakthrough development that should add tremendous value to what we do today and in the future,” CEO Floyd Wilson said.

The announcement of the success with HiWAY was made in tandem with the company’s earning reports for 4Q2010 and for the entire year of 2010. Petrohawk reported a net loss of $79.6 million, or minus 26 cents/share, for 4Q2010, compared to net income of $36.5 million, or 12 cents/share for the previous fourth quarter. The company attributed the 4Q2010 loss to future derivative contracts, discontinued operations resulting from the write-down from the sale of the Fayetteville Shale midstream assets and various noncash charges and deferred income tax adjustments.

Wilson said the company planned to use HiWAY throughout the Eagle Ford Shale but would not deploy the technology in other shale plays for now.

“There are limitations [to where the] Schlumberger material can be used,” Wilson said. “We’re going to use it throughout the Eagle Ford, including Black Hawk. I think other plays are sort of [to be determined].”

Petrohawk President Richard Stoneburner said HiWAY would be used for the first time in the Black Hawk area by mid-March. He also said HiWAY fracturing costs were slightly less than those of a conventional hybrid well.

“It seems to be a breakthrough to us,” Stoneburner said. “It makes a lot of sense in the technology and what’s being done and trying to create better permeability, a better channel, flow pass for the fluid in the rock. And I think intuitively it makes sense that it works [best] in the dry gas areas.”

Stoneburner said Petrohawk had two fracturing fleets using the HiWAY technology in Eagle Ford. A company statement added that Petrohawk had converted all of the fracturing services provided by Schlumberger in Eagle Ford to HiWAY, and that Petrohawk was currently utilizing all available capacity of the technology.

“Schlumberger has committed all the material that they have at this point to Petrohawk and will continue to contribute all the material that they have until there’s excess capacity at which time it will be marketed to our peers,” Stoneburner said. “But right now, we have two fleets that are pumping 100% HiWAY frack.”

Petrohawk reported 50% pro forma year-over-year reserves growth last year, ending 2010 with 3.4 Tcfe of estimated proved reserves. That figure was helped by shale plays, which saw a 100% production increase from the Haynesville and Bossier shales and a massive increase of 235% in Eagle Ford (see Shale Daily, Feb. 2).