The Bakken is a barn-burner, and if one includes the Lower Lodgepole formation as well, then this area of North Dakota could contain up to 8 billion barrels of oil, some operators think. It remains to be seen what the well spacing will end up being as the play moves west, although operators will be testing 320-acres eventually, says Harold Hamm, chairman and CEO of Continental Resources Inc.
For now, frac math is the pastime this summer. The more fracs the better, one would think. But of course, it’s more technical than that. There is an optimum number to be done, and a limit to the dollars spent, versus the amount of incremental barrels and Mcfs recovered. Key operators in the Bakken are pushing the limits, with Brigham Exploration Co. having done as many as 36 frac stages.
“I think the upper limit has yet to be tested,” said Hamm during a Q&A session after his prepared remarks, at our Denver conference held in May, Developing Unconventional Oil (DUO).
“We have an ongoing internal study that we keep updating as we get new data.”
Whiting Petroleum Corp. CEO Jim Volker said his company also is experimenting. “It’s something we are wrestling with at Whiting today. We see a a range of options. A 22-stage sand frac can go to a 30-stage frac when using a lot more ceramic proppant in it.
“Going from 22 stages to 25 is an incremental cost of about $700,000. If we go all the way up to 30 stages, that would be an additional $2- to $2.2 million. So we have to recover a lot of additional barrels of oil to get to pay out. We are all testing this thesis that the more fracs, the better. We’ll let you know in about nine months!”
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