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Growth of the Original Shale Play

The Bakken has received global attention since the early days of the first unconventional wells drilled and completed within the boundaries of the known play. The attention has come in part from the exhaustive and consistent info from the state.
The Bakken has received global attention since the early days of the first unconventional wells drilled and completed within the boundaries of the known play. The attention has come in part from the unique, exhaustive and consistent information and perspective provided by the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources Oil & Gas Division team. Investors and industry stakeholders outside the region along with regional decision makers and business owners have been able to stay connected to the state of the Bakken—by the numbers—thanks to the monthly data conferences delivered by the
state. Starting in 2010, the ND DMR began producing and broadcasting a monthly web-based broadcast on drilling rig numbers, production volumes and other factors impacting the direction of the Bakken’s activity levels. The Director’s Cuts started as simple, minimal documents. Today, the documents are multipage write-ups packed with information that tells the transformation of the Bakken and how it has overcome growing pains and continues to thrive despite constant change in regulation, oil prices and industry.



Petroleum Researchers Shift Focus

As the list of research topics and research participants grows and changes, the amount of work being done by multiple entities continues to be robust in the Bakken. This a breakdown of their focus.
The Society of Petroleum Engineers houses an exhaustive database of research work and case studies performed by petroleum engineers from industry and academia. Advanced search options within the database allow for the compilation of studies and work based on specific terms and time periods. Using the term, “Bakken” for the period between 2018 and 2019, search results yielded 444 results. The paper titles reveal the direction and evolution of the Bakken.

Many of the paper titles are related to studies that examine parent and child well relationships, frack hits and cluster placement efficiency. Other popular topics for the period between 2018 to ’19 include research on drilling fluids, gases applicable and possible for enhanced oil recovery and how data and machine learning can be utilized to better understand a reservoir.

Using the same search term, but a different
year period (2010-’11) netted 215 results. Paper topics differed greatly, focusing more on general reservoir characteristics, possibilities for infill development and how new downhole technology (now commonplace in the Bakken) could be used to extract more oil. As the list of research topics and chart of research participants each show, the amount of work being done by multiple entities continues to be robust.

2018 to 2019 Research Topics  (not inclusive):
Downhole Scale
Gas Cycling
Supercritical CO2
Managed Pressure Drilling
ESP Pumps
Machine Learning
Well Interference
Environmental Awareness
Concerns on DUCs
Coiled Tubing Fluid
Self-removing frac plugs



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DUG Rockies: Plenty Of Promise, Despite The Politics

Technology has upended the conventional wisdom on well completions, and the passage of SB 181 in Colorado may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the oil and gas industry.

DENVER—The ever-evolving Bakken Shale set a new production record in January and is poised for decades of drilling, the opening keynote speaker at DUG Rockies said on May 15.

It’s a capital-efficient play, said Brad Holly, president and CEO of Whiting Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: WLL). He attributed the upswing to cycle-time improvements and right-sized completions.

In January, Bakken production reached 1.46 million barrels of oil per day (bbl/d), Holly said, with production per well continuing to grow. Customization is key. Whiting plans to complete 130 wells this year, relying on data science to tailor each job for the optimum frac.

In the Sanish formation where Whiting operates, all completions using new technologies have had a positive impact on the parent well, he said.

“This is quite remarkable and counter to accepted wisdom,” Holly said. “The play has strong economics and hefty inventory—there are decades of drilling ahead.”

That’s because, while earlier Bakken completions resulted in recovery of 10% to 12% of original oil in place (OOIP), completions today are recovering close to 20%.

During a panel on how Wall Street sees the situation in the Rockies, Trisha Curtis of PetroNerds LLC said the shale model has inspired broader changes in the oil market. U.S. shale has become a necessary piece of a global asset portfolio, said the president and co-founder of the Denver-based energy analytics firm, and clients are attracted to its short-cycle investment and quick production response.

But with well-spacing issues raising anxiety levels, Curtis addressed the question: Are well spacing issues killing the boom? Short answer: No.

“Operators are evolving their approaches and making changes in inventory and changes in spacing,” she said. “Completion design modifications continue and year-over-year well productivity is improving.”

Colorado politics have definitely hurt valuations of companies operating in the Denver-Julesberg Basin, said Mike Kelly of Seaport Global Securities, who joined Curtis on the panel. An investor pumping $1,000 into the typical D-J company on Jan. 1, 2016, would, on average, have stock worth $421 today.

“This is in spite of the fact that the D-J has competitive [finding and development costs], margins and returns,” said Kelly, who is managing director and senior analyst.

A positive, Kelly said, is that SB 181, passed the state Senate on May 13, could provide stability for investors because it asserts local control and Weld County, Colo., loves the oil and gas business. He noted that the issue is now settled and more restrictive legislation or ballot initiatives in the future are unlikely.

“It’s time for Wall Street to take a new look at D-J players,” Kelly said.

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