Unconventional/complex reservoirs

An Acid Test for Spacing Decisions: Complete 44 Wells With 129 Miles of Laterals on a 3×2-Mile Lease in the Midland Basin

A 44-well development tests what ConocoPhillips has learned about maximizing the value of the wells by figuring out how they drain the reservoir.

map showing concentrations of oil in green
A map showing concentrations of oil in green is the starting point for a plan to efficiently drain a large, undrilled formation in the Midland Basin.
Source: URTeC 3856029.

ConocoPhillips has an increasingly rare opportunity in the Permian—6 square miles of land over multiple layers of prime, undeveloped shale.

The scale of this Midland Basin project is huge—44 wells with laterals running the 3-mile length of the lease—as is the company’s patience.

Last fall, when a ConocoPhillips panel described the megaproject at the SPE Permian Basin Energy Conference in Midland, they said they were about 70% done with drilling. Fracturing would begin as drilling was ending and would take about 8 months to complete.

Only then would the wells in this geologic tank go into production, limiting any interactions with older wells inside the lease lines. However, outside that boundary there are older wells that could interact.

Brady Kolb, a staff geologist for ConocoPhillips who led off the panel discussion, explained, “All the zones communicate in some shape or form, so we take the whole tank and deliver it at the same time to maximize resource capture.”

The gains come from avoiding harmful interactions with older wells and the depleted zones they create, as well as the rock left undeveloped to create wide buffer zones around parents.

In addition, they are deploying innovative technology to reduce fuel costs and emissions, from grid power for two of its five drilling rigs to processing field gas to create the rich gas needed to run fracturing equipment. And they are using the flood of data gathered while drilling to continuously improve work on later wells.

On one level, it will certainly succeed.

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