1 JULY 2015 The Better Business Publication Serving the Exploration / Drilling / Production Industry Operators Finding Record Wells By Al Pickett Special Correspondent And New Frontiers In Marcellus/Utica The first quarter announcement of Range Resources Corporation s Claysville Sportsman s Club Unit No. 11H well was a newsmaker both for its initial production and for where it was drilled. Range Resources first Utica well in Washington County, Pa., tested at a 24-hour rate of 59 million cubic feet a day in late December, a number that was reported as the largest initial production rate of any shale play in the country. Jeff Ventura, president and chief executive officer of Fort Worth-based Range Resources, notes that the Utica well is less than 14 miles from the company s Renz No. 1, which was its Marcellus discovery well in 2004 in the same county. The Drake well, the nation s first oil well, drilled in 1859 in Titusville, Pa., is about 110 miles from the Claysville Sportsman s Club No. 11H. We are right back where the industry started, Ventura marvels. As they say, the best place to find oil and gas is beneath an historical oil and gas field. In fact, sitting next to that first Renz well is an old wellhead drilled in the 1890s and still producing some gas. Reproduced for Range Resources Corporation with permission from The American Oil & Gas Reporter
2 The Claysville Sportsman s Club No. 11H, which was drilled off a Marcellus pad, was brought on line in late January at a constrained rate of 20 MMcf/d on an interruptible basis. By the end of the first quarter, Ventura says, it had produced 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas. There are those who believe choking back a well will improve its estimated ultimate recovery. Ventura doesn t deny that, but says that is not why Range constrained its production rate. We don t design our wells for peak production, he explains. We design them for consistent rates. Ventura points out that Washington County s initial Utica well was drilled with a 5,420-foot lateral, meaning it produced 10.9 million cubic feet per 1,000 feet of lateral on the 24-hour test. Thought initially to be present only in Ohio, the development of the Utica in the core area of the Marcellus in southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia may be the most remarkable news to come out of the Appalachian Basin, Ventura poses. We are part of the Core Labs Consortium, he observes. We contribute cores to the lab for research. The (Pennsylvania) Utica is similar in porosity to Ohio and West Virginia. The permeability is on the high end, and it has similar reservoir pressure. We believe there is percent more gas in place in southwestern Pennsylvania than in the best areas in Ohio. Continual Improvement The Marcellus has been a terrific success story for Range, and Ventura says he believes the Utica could be, too. The development of the Marcellus is just several years ahead of the Utica. We made the (Marcellus) discovery in October 2004, he recalls. Our first horizontal well was in 2006, and we cracked the code in By the end of 2007, we had had multiple successes. Range has drilled 875 Marcellus wells since pioneering the play. Ventura lists longer laterals, increased fracture stages, and reduced cluster stage spacing among the advancements Range has made. Each year, we have seen continual well improvement, he comments. The bottom line is it is a quality rock. This year, we are drilling wells with roughly 6,000-foot laterals and 30 fracture stages. Remarkable production numbers are not limited to the Utica, however. In late April, Ventura reports, Range brought on line a Marcellus well in Washington County with a 24-hour production rate of 43.4 million cubic feet equivalent a day. That, too, was a record and the highest rate ever for a Marcellus well. Ventura says Range has 1.6 million acres of stacked pay potential in the Marcellus, Utica and Upper Devonian, mostly in southwestern Pennsylvania, with about 400,000 acres prospective for the Utica. The 1.6 million acres in the Marcellus includes 905,000 in the dry gas window and 660,000 acres in the wet gas window. We have lots of running room, he remarks. In June, Range was drilling a second Utica well off the same pad as the Claysville Sportsman s Club No. 11H. We were the first company to drill a commercial well in the Marcellus, Ventura points out. We offset that well and then stepped out. The Utica will be the opposite. It will just radiate out to take advantage of the stacked pays and existing infrastructure. Range reported its net first-quarter Marcellus production in southwestern Pennsylvania averaged 887 MMcfe/d, a 32 percent increase over That consisted of 490 MMcf/d of gas, 55,786 barrels a day of natural gas liquids, and 10,382 bbl/d of condensate. Ventura says Range brought 35 wells on line in southwestern Pennsylvania in the first quarter, 17 of which were in the super-rich area, 14 were in the wet gas area, three were Marcellus dry gas wells, and of course, the one Utica dry gas well. Besides discovering the Marcellus and now drilling one of the first Utica wells in the same area, Range has been a pioneer in other ways as well, according to Ventura. In 2008, we recommended upgraded oil field standards, he says. We led the way with best engineering practices. We pioneered water recycling. We were the first to achieve 100 percent reuse of water. And we were the first company to disclose what was in our fracturing fluid. We have made a strong effort in technical and environmental practices. Range Resources President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Ventura cites longer laterals, increased fracture stages, and reduced cluster stage spacing as among the advancements it has made over a decade of developing the Marcellus Shale. The company has 1.6 million acres prospective to the Marcellus, including 905,000 acres in the dry gas window and 660,000 in the wet gas window. Expanding The Scope While most of the early development in the wet-gas Utica has been in Ohio, followed by Range Resources dry gas Utica monster in Washington County, Pa., there also is Utica development going on in other parts of the state. In March, Houston-based Seneca Resources Corp., the wholly owned exploration and production subsidiary of National Fuel Gas Company, announced that its first exploratory Utica well on state forest land in Tioga County, in northeastern Pennsylvania, had a 24-hour peak production rate of 22.7 MMcf/d of natural gas. That proclamation came on the heels of Royal Dutch Shell s announcement last fall of two Utica discovery wells in Tioga County that were far from where the Utica was thought to be most productive.
3 Shell says its Gee discovery flowed at an initial rate of 11.2 MMcf/d and was drilled to a total measured depth of 14,500 feet with a 3,100-foot lateral, and utilized 13 frac stages. Its second exploratory well, the Neal, has been on line since February 2014, and had an observed peak flowback rate of 26.5 MMcf/d, according to Shell. It was drilled to a total measured depth of 15,500 feet with a 4,200-foot lateral and utilized 16 fracture stages. Seneca s exploration well was drilled on a pad in its DCNR Tract 007 in Tioga County. The company reported it had a 24- hour peak production rate of 22.7 MMcf/d of natural gas. It was drilled to a true vertical depth of 12,200 feet with a 4,640-foot lateral, and was completed over 30 stages. We are very pleased with the initial production results from our first Utica Shale well in Tioga County, states National Fuel President and CEO Ronald J. Tanski in the company s March 5 announcement. This well, along with wells drilled by other operators in the area, have derisked the Utica potential of our 10,000 acres on DCNR Tract 007. We estimate resource potential on this tract alone of approximately 1 trillion cubic feet. Rob Boulware, manager of stakeholder relations, says that as of June, Seneca had 90 wells producing from the Marcellus in Tioga County. He says the company has more than 800,000 net acres in Pennsylvania, giving it the second largest position in the Marcellus Shale. Seneca has 325 active horizontal wells in the state. The biggest challenge to developing the Utica, according to Boulware, is pipeline take-away capacity. The natural gas industry is suffering from its own success, he poses. Pennsylvania s abundant supply of natural gas and the lack of pipeline capacity to reach population centers have combined to suppress prices, and this area is one of the most constrained. When you add the uncertain political and regulatory climate, the result is a slowdown in drilling. nearly 54,000 net acres in the Utica in Belmont County, Oh., according to Dan Rice. Derek Rice, vice president of exploration for the company, marvels at the potential of the Utica. The rock properties are some of the best we have seen, he declares. It is superior to most areas of the Marcellus. The shale is extremely brittle with high porosity. It is overpressured at 9,500 feet, and is producing some monster wells. He says Rice Energy s 120 producing wells in the Marcellus typically have 7,000-foot laterals and EURs of 14 Bcf. Most of its Marcellus wells are dry gas. Rice has 10 Utica wells producing in Ohio, Derek Rice adds. The first (Utica) well has been on line for only a year, he relates, so we still are collecting data. It tested at 42 MMcfe/d. We choked it back to 14 MMcfe/d-15 MMcfe/d, and it still is making 15 MMcfe/d-16 MMcfe/d. Choking back allows you to manage production a lot better. He says Rice Energy has extended its lateral lengths from 8,000 to 12,000 feet, while the basin average is 7,000 feet. The company is employing 200-foot stage lengths, meaning it is using as many 60 fracture stages per lateral, with no operational issues. We are limited by the shape of our parcels, he adds. We will drill as long a lateral as the lease will let us. Toby Rice says the company has confidence in the consistency of both the Marcellus and Utica in the three counties in which Rice Energy is operating. The shale doesn t change much in a 10- to 20-mile radius, he says. That sets the stage for some fantastic rates. Focus On The Utica Denver-based PDC Energy sold its Marcellus assets in West Virginia in October 2014 to focus on its Wattenberg position in Colorado and Utica position in Ohio. We made tremendous technical advancements (in West Virginia) with 7 Bcf-9 Bcf wells, claims PDC President and CEO Bart Brookman. But the returns still were not going to compete with the Wattenberg (the company s Niobrara play in Colorado). However, we continue to believe the Utica will compete with the Wattenberg in time. Vice President of Operations Scott Reasoner points out PDC Energy s position is in the condensate and wet gas windows of the Utica play in Guernsey, Washington and Noble counties, Oh. He says EURs average 680,000 barrels of oil equivalent in the condensate window and are 74 percent liquids. In the wet gas window, EURs average 1.2 million barrels of oil equivalent and are 54 percent liquid and 46 percent dry gas. Our early development started with 4,000-foot laterals, he states. Current operating practice is approximately 6,000 feet, and we have plans for laterals up to 7,500 feet. Success Story One of the Marcellus/Utica success stories is Rice Energy, which was started in 2008 with only three employees brothers Derek, Dan and Toby Rice and now has 320 employees. Rice Energy has more than 82,000 net Marcellus acres in Washington and Greene counties in southwestern Pennsylvania, and Rice Energy, which was started in 2008 with three employees brothers Derek, Dan and Toby Rice, has 320 employees today. The company has more than 82,000 net Marcellus acres in Washington and Greene counties, Pa., and 54,000 net acres in the Utica Shale in Belmont County, Oh.
4 in the second quarter. Brookman notes PDC Energy laid down its only drilling rig in the Utica in January because of depressed commodity prices. We are encouraged by our new cost structure, and with modest improvements in commodity prices, we believe the Utica is in a position to compete with our Wattenberg development, he says. PDC Energy has 67,000 acres in the play, according to Brookman, with about 50 percent of it held by production. That is roughly 220 drilling locations, he calculates. For a company our size, there is the capacity to grow. We have 24 producing wells, and we are very early in the development of this emerging play. PDC Energy has 67,000 acres in the condensate and wet gas windows of the Utica play in Guernsey, Washington and Noble counties, Oh. The company reports average estimated ultimate recoveries of 680,000 barrels of oil equivalent in the condensate window and 1.2 MMboe in the wet gas window. It first quarter production of 2,959 boe a day was a 29 percent increase from fourth quarter He says PDC Energy has done a number of other things to improve EURs, including using a process similar to the plug and perf method, but with cemented sleeves. He says the company is using both methods, noting it has completed the toe sections of three wells using the cemented sleeves technology with the remainder of each well using the plug and perf method. The cemented sleeves enable us to complete the hydraulic fracturing process at a more rapid pace and pinpoint our fracturing treatment, Reasoner explains. PDC Energy s first-quarter Utica production was 2,959 boe/d, a 29 percent increase over fourth quarter Brookman says the company s Dynamite four-well pad, which was placed on line late in the fourth quarter, has outperformed expectations and is the largest contributor to the increase in Utica production. PDC Energy also brought on the four-well Cole pad CONSOL Energy has drilled two of an anticipated six pads and 47 wells on its Pittsburgh International Airport project, which it began earlier this year. As of mid-june, CONSOL was fracturing wells on the first pad while it drilled on the third pad. The wells are targeting the wet-gas Marcellus Shale. Airport Project CONSOL Energy, which is one of the largest leaseholders in the Appalachian Basin, began a Marcellus drilling project at Pittsburgh International Airport earlier this year. We have completed drilling the first two pads and are fracturing the first pad, which should be completed in late second quarter, outlined Vice President of Operations Craig Neal in June. A third pad is partially drilled, he added. We have drilled two Upper Devonian laterals one Burkett and one Rhinestreet off a Marcellus pad, demonstrating this stacked pay opportunity. When completed, Neal says, the Pittsburgh airport project will include six pads and 47 wells as it is currently contemplated for the Marcellus. We recognize great potential from stacked pays in the Upper Devonian and Utica, both of which could greatly add to our final well count at the Airport, he comments. MarkWest Energy Partners is providing midstream and processing service to the project, according to Neal. Although a few more permits are required to drill at an airport, Neal says that hasn t been a problem. There are more permits involved because the Federal Aviation Administration has authority, he relates. We had to undertake an environmental assessment, but our company s operational, safety and environmental standards are high, so operational changes were not required. Of course, security is higher. He says the Utica formation underlies the Marcellus Shale wet gas formation at the airport, but CONSOL s initial permits don t include the Utica.
5 Stacked Pays While CONSOL isn t currently targeting the Utica in its airport project, it certainly has become a major focus for the company as its takes advantage of stacked Marcellus/Utica pay zones, Neal says. We always knew the Utica was there, in addition to our wet Utica reserve, he muses, but we must prove this deep, dry resource value. He says CONSOL has 614,000 acres prospective to the Utica in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, which includes 77,000 acres in a joint venture with Hess Corporation in Harrison, Noble and Belmont counties, Oh. The company also has 790,000 acres prospective to the Marcellus, consisting of 701,000 acres in a joint venture with Noble Energy and 89,000 acres outside the joint venture in which it owns 100 percent of the working interest. He says CONSOL has 384 producing wells in the Marcellus. Neal estimates that 496,000 acres in its Marcellus footprint is prospective for the Utica, noting that CONSOL has 500 MMcf of proven reserves in the Utica. We have developed only about 1 percent of our acreage in the Utica, he adds. Estimated ultimate recoveries are 2.4 Bcfe per 1,000-foot lateral in Ohio, according to Neal. He says CONSOL is testing the dry gas Utica in West Virginia. Estimates are 1.8 Bcfe per 1,000-foot lateral, although he notes, We have to get the wells in production to get a better feel for that number. CONSOL has 53 wet Utica wells on line in Ohio, Neal continues. In addition, three dry Utica wells in Pennsylvania and West Virginia are under development. The company is stimulating four dry Utica wells on its Monroe County, Oh., SWITZ 6 pad, and in June was drilling its 100 percent-owned GH-9 well in Greene County, Pa. We also ran pipe on our 100 percent working interest Gaut 4I, a 5,600-foot dry Utica lateral in Westmoreland County, Pa., he continues. We are stepping out. CONSOL s Gaut 4I in Westmoreland County is two counties northeast of most of the Utica activity in southwestern Pennsylvania. Neal says its partner, Noble Energy, has drilled a 7,200-foot dry gas Utica lateral in Marshall County, W.V., as well. We are spending on science to understand this asset, Neal says. For example, he says CONSOL is testing ceramic and resin-coated proppant at its SWITZ 6 pad. This increases cost, but we want to come up the learning curve quickly, he emphasizes. We must understand proppant type s impact on EUR. We have seen a 17 percent reduction in well costs from first quarter 2014 to first quarter 2015, Neal offers. We expect a further 20 percent reduction as we become even more capital efficient. We experienced 48 percent production growth from first quarter last year to the same quarter this year. Our operating costs have improved from $3.18 an Mcfe to $2.62 in the Marcellus. I am proud of that. Our Utica reserves have grown 700 percent, from 1.2 Bcfe to 9.5 Bcfe, he adds. There is tremendous growth opportunity in the Utica.