It might seem that the Eagle Ford and Marcellus shales are being developed at breakneck speed, but it’s important to remember that these are the early days in two resource plays that will be natural gas breadbaskets for the nation in the decades to come.

“Plays like the Marcellus and the Eagle Ford are really prospective plays,” Shell Exploration and Production’s Russ Ford, executive vice president for onshore gas, upstream Americas, said during a recent Hart Energy Publishing webinar. “These are enormous in terms of potential, kind of a once-in-a-century event for the states that they lie in.

“But we also have to appreciate that these are very early on plays, too. We’re going to be developing as an industry these areas for the next couple of decades. I think it would be pretty presumptuous to say we’ve figured out where the best liquids-producing areas are, where the core areas are from a gas-producing state. We’re going to have as an industry a lot of work to do before we can make that claim.”

One of the key areas to improving success as the shales are plied is understanding well production profiles, Ford suggested. This is true in the Montney Shale, the Eagle Ford, Marcellus or the Haynesville Shale. He said Shell wants to understand production profiles in real time, during well completion and when the well is onstream and producing.

“That allows you to improve the completion if you understand how effective you are in placing [hydraulic fracturing] treatments and optimize the number of these things that we pump. But it also helps us understand what the [well] spacing is going to be and what we ultimately do to develop a field,” he said.

Knowledge gained in one play can also be transferred, at least partially, to another, Ford allowed.

“There’s a lot of local issues that you can move from play to play to play. That’s a great thing. We’ll do that. A lot of our competitors do the same thing,” he said. “Then what we really want to do is back up and say, ‘what are the real step-changes that we can make by technology and how would that apply across the whole gamut of fields that we have.'”