On-Site Specialization Optimizes Eagle Ford Acreage

Sanchez Energy’s COO discusses the company’s project management strategies in its Eagle Ford operations.

Sanchez Energy

Since its founding in 2011, Sanchez Energy has focused its efforts on developing a sizeable presence in the Eagle Ford Shale in south Texas. The company’s proprietary planning tools and procurement strategies have allowed it to develop a streamlined manufacturing system, which a company executive said led to decreased well costs.

In a presentation held by the SPE Gulf Coast Section’s Business Development Study Group, Christopher Heinson discussed the processes and systems the company has employed to drive sustainability in its Eagle Ford operations. Heinson is the senior vice president and chief operating officer at Sanchez.

Sanchez currently holds more than 200,000 net acres throughout the Eagle Ford and approximately 3,000 drilling locations. The company acquired its Cotulla assets in May 2013 and its Wycross assets in October of that year. In January 2017, the company partnered with Blackstone Energy to buy 155,000 net acres surrounding the Comanche area in the western part of the shale play, adding to the 106,000 net acres in the Catarina area that the company acquired in June 2014.

Sanchez’s project management initiatives began in 2013, when it developed a software program to track and log its activities on-site. Heinson said this system helped eliminate idle rig days; with the system deployed, he said he could see what tasks were being performed on the asset and which projects were behind schedule. Within a year, he said the software system became less of a tracking system and more of an overall management system.

“All of a sudden, our planning and our scheduling started to become far more advanced. The wasted time that our individual professionals were spending trying to track down information was gone. All of a sudden, our professionals were able to spend time doing what professionals should be doing—advanced engineering and geoscience,” Heinson said.

Heinson said improving the day-to-day planning was the first step in implementing a granular management system. The next step was increasing on-site specialization. For example, instead of having a completions engineer managing the entirety of all project management associated with completions, Sanchez had its completions engineers work on a subset of the project. In 2014, the company brought on a dedicated completions support team that primarily focused on sourcing water and determining the layout of its pumps at the fracturing site.

“Really, it’s amazing when you look at it. I see aerial pictures of everyone’s completion spreads all the time. Ours are all lined up in nice 90-degree angles with very clear runways because we have someone whose only job is to tell each one of these pumps and trucks where they need to go on location. We put a lot of focus into that,” Heinson said.

After seeing success with the completions support team, Sanchez continued adding layers of management to its Eagle Ford operations. It has teams to help prepare fractures, as well as a team focused on pressure pumping. It added a team to handle the gathering of flowback water and a separate team to handle water transfer.

Heinson said Sanchez’s continued focus is on adding specialization at the margins. The company now has drilling engineers focused on penetration rates in the laterals and another engineer focused on determining the best parameters to draw out the surface casing. In addition, by moving to offline surface cementing, the company reduced its surface drilling time from 1.8 days to 1.3 days. Heinson said that such time differences, while small, can have a significant impact on the project’s timeline.  

“Those little half-day increments, they start adding up when people start really focusing and dialing in on every segment,” Heinson said. “You build it up where you have a team of professionals, limiting their scope, and really giving them the challenge of just perfecting that one area. When you start aggregating that, you start getting really good results.”