Like the secret sauce that leads to blue ribbons in the winner’s circle, completions designs have become a crucial ingredient in recipes for productive wells in U.S. shale plays.

For Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: APC), experimentation is part of the process. This week the Houston-based company said its new completions design in Colorado’s Denver-Julesburg (D-J) Basin has led to production improvements of more than 35% compared to type curves provided in March.

Operators in U.S. shale plays have drilled longer laterals and deeper wells, while adjusting proppant, fluid levels and well spacing in an effort to improve EURs and ultimately grow profits. The persistent push of new technology and techniques comes as the industry rebuilds from an oversupply-driven downturn, which lowered oil prices.

Anadarko has spent several months testing a new completion design in the D-J Basin, where it holds about 400,000 net acres with recoverable resources of more than an estimated 2 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

Increased proppant loading has been one of the techniques used by drillers in the D-J Basin and elsewhere, including the Delaware—one of Anadarko’s other two focus areas, the other being the U.S. Gulf of Mexico—to open fissures in the shale and boost production.

The mega-frack movement, or high-intensity completions, is partly behind the increased demand for sand. Stimulated near-wellbore rock requires more frack sand and more fluid and chemicals.

However, Anadarko has used less sand and more fluid in the D-J, according to Brad Holly, executive vice president of Anadarko’s U.S. onshore E&P operations.

“As we move to the new design we’re pumping more fluid and more frack intensity, so tighter cluster spacing,” Holly said during the company’s second-quarter 2017 earnings call July 25.He noted the company has been refining its completion design for the last five years, and the process is deliberate and scientifically tested. “We are seeing that early time 35% uplift.”

Anadarko, D-J Basin, completions, design, oil and gas, shale
Source: Anadarko


Although it is still early in the process, Holly added that “we’re getting a higher IP, and it looks like that’s sustaining in the near term.”

He called the field “world-class,” saying it continues to get better.

Responding to an analyst’s question on whether using more fluid means using less sand, Holly said, We certainly have experimented with all of that. It’s no secret we have experimented with less sand out there. We continue to refine and work on the secret recipe to the completions.”

But tackling shale formations is complex and requires more than one recipe, he said.

“We use different completion techniques across the D-J because we have different fluid types and different parameters,” he added, noting Anadarko is working to transfer knowledge gained in the D-J Basin to the Delaware Basin.

Efforts by the company’s advanced analytics and emerging technologies group is also playing a role, according to Anadarko CEO Al Walker, who referred to digitally obtaining well data.

“What we’re able to do today as an industry with data is substantially different than two or three years ago,” Walker said.

The company is able to examine issues and stay ahead of challenges faster using digital technology. With past approaches, it would’ve taken years to reach the same answer, Walker said. Such technology is why Anadarko is able to experiment to understand how to “apply the right recipe in different places.”

Testing continues to better understand the impact on the projected EUR.

For second-quarter 2017, Anadarko reported a 12% increase in total oil sales volume compared to a year ago. Divestiture-adjusted sales volumes were 621,000 boe/d.

Oil sales volume for the quarter averaged 76,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) in the D-J Basin, down from 93,000 bbl/d a year ago due to impacts “associated with Colorado’s [Notice to Operators] and additional response efforts,” while it was up 52% to 33,000 bbl/d in the Delaware Basin of West Texas.

Velda Addison can be reached at