HOUSTON—Better use of data that is being gained from unconventional fields will be the next step in improving resource capture, according to play leaders in the Permian, Anadarko and Williston basins.

Today, operators change a completion design and deploy it across the length of the lateral. “As time goes by, as we get into smart pipe and real-time” data deployment, changes can be more unique, Rich Downey, vice president, drilling and completion, for WPX Energy Inc., told attendees at Hart Energy’s inaugural DUG Executive conference. WPX operates in the Delaware and Williston basins.

Rock characteristics along the lateral change, Downey noted. “Today, we’re making changes along the entire lateral rather than making a change across every section of that rock …. We’re not looking at the production impact along every foot of that lateral.

“And that’s where we’re going to continue to improve—knowing how to improve every section along that lateral.”

Blu Hulsey, a senior vice president for Continental Resources Inc., said data needs to be used quicker—in real time. Continental operates in the Williston and Anadarko basins.

Randy Foutch, chairman and CEO of Laredo Petroleum Inc., a Midland Basin operator, cited Laredo’s upfront investment in data development and that there is a “memory cost.”

Hulsey agreed. “The progression will be how to deal with all this data, how to make it all usable, because there is so much coming at us at such a quick pace …. I think that will be a new technology that will come in the future.”

Foutch said industry has yet to discover what is the maximum amount of resource in place that can be recovered from tight rock. “To say that we’ve reached the max, I just don’t believe that.” Naturally, the pace of improvement will be slower, he said, “but I’m convinced, with this industry’s (record of innovation), we will always continue to get better, although it will be incrementally slower.”

Completion design will be key, he, Downey and Hulsey agreed. Foutch said, “We dramatically increased our drilling efficiency a number of years ago and where we’re heading toward is trying to optimize our completions.”

Unconventional fields are the first time in his and most others’ careers “where we’ve had this amount of section that is all going to produce to some level or another,” he said. Even a big field was miniscule compared with what industry is able to produce from today. The answer is in the completion.

Downey said, “It’s the completion design …. Today we focus on every foot that we drill.”


Nissa Darbonne can be reached at ndarbonne@hartenergy.com.