WPX strikes success, drills more in Piceance Basin

CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON/Daily Sentinel file photo—The first horizontal drilling project in the Piceance Basin for WPX Energy, shown above near Parachute, produced more than 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas in its first three and a half months of production, the company said. A second well is nearing completion and two more are planned, WPX said.

WPX Energy, encouraged by the success of its first horizontal drilling project in the Piceance Basin, is hoping to duplicate that success with one new well nearing completion and two more in the works.

The company’s first horizontal well gushed out more than 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas in its first 107 days of production, or about half of the natural gas used by Grand Junction in a year, said Steve Soychak, WPX Energy district manager.

The second well is now being drilled near Interstate 70 just west of the Parachute exit and WPX expects completion this month according to a company statement.

Soychak spoke Wednesday at the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce energy briefing.

The first WPX horizontal well is now the top producing well of gas or oil tapping into the Niobrara Formation, which stretches across Colorado from the Piceance east to DJ Basin in Weld County.

WPX’s drilling plan for the rest of 2013 includes completing two more horizontal wells in the Piceance Basin. The company owns lease rights to approximately 180,000 acres of Niobrara/Mancos shale.

While the wells are WPX’s first horizontal wells in the Piceance Basin, Encana Corp. has been drilling horizontal wells in the Piceance for years.

The horizontal-drilling plan is part of WPX’s expanded plan for drilling in the Piceance for the rest of the year. WPX is now running seven drill rigs, up from the five it had planned.

The additional drilling will drive WPX’s budget up to $400 million from the $360 million the company already had planned.

The Niobrara is deeper than the Mesa Verde Formation, which has been the target for the bulk of exploration so far.

Unlike Mesa Verde wells, which are drilled down to about 5,000 feet below the surface, the Niobrara well was about double that depth, and then extended out horizontally some 4,000 to 5,000 feet more.

Hydraulic fracturing along the length of the horizontal section then freed up the trapped gas for collection.

Over time, the company’s Niobrara discovery could more than double the company’s proved, probable and possible reserves, which were approximately 18 trillion cubic feet at the end of 2012.

The driving force behind the additional spending is strength in the natural gas market and falling levels of stored natural gas.

Nationwide, “It’s significantly less storage than last year,” Soychak said.

That’s important for the Piceance because the basin accounts for 60 percent of WPX’s proven reserves, Soychak said.

The amount of gas still to be discovered is so great in the Piceance that he wouldn’t be surprised to learn that drilling was still taking place 30 years in the future, Soychak said.


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