One of the reasons it has taken well over a year to slow U.S. onshore crude oil production is that producers are drilling more wells in locations where they are almost sure to get the highest production. Drilling in these sweet spots maximizes the revenue they receive for their barrels, and with prices so low, more barrels is the only way to make the wells pay enough to be worth drilling in the first place.
An average horizontal well in a shale play like the Bakken or Eagle Ford reaches its peak production within about six months, and then production tails off almost as quickly as it rose. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s drilling production report, an average well in the Bakken shale play has a current initial production (IP) rate (first 30 days) of around 750 barrels a day. In the Eagle Ford, the average IP for a well is around 825 barrels a day.
In 2015, Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) drilled its Burns Ranch M3H well in the Eagle Ford shale and the IP rate on the well was 3,152 barrels of light crude, nearly four times the average for a well in the region. As impressive as that might be, it’s not even one of the top 10 wells ever drilled based on IP rates, and it’s barely half the rate of the biggest “monster” well ever.
BHP Billiton Ltd.’s (NYSE: BHP) Butler B 5H well drilled in 2014 in the Eagle Ford shale had an IP rate of 6,379 barrels a day, the biggest monster well ever. Chesapeake’s Thurman Horn 406H well drilled in 2012 in the Anadarko Basin had an IP rate of 5,427 barrels a day and is the second-largest monster well ever.
According to Rystad Energy
, the second-largest monster well of 2015 was EOG Resources Inc.’s (NYSE: EOG) Riverview 102-32H well in the Bakken shale, which tallied an IP rate of 2,804 barrels a day. Concho Resources Inc. (NYSE: CXO) drilled the third-most productive monster well of last year in the Permian Delaware Basin’s Wolfcamp shale. The W State 1204H well posted an IP rate of 2,579 barrels a day.
Besides bragging rights, why does this matter? Here’s Rystad Energy’s comment:
Last year also gave us some of the most economic shale wells ever drilled in the US. Outstanding wells have breakeven oil prices as low as [$]20-25 [per barrel]. Among the nominees in the class for the most profitable wells at current low oil prices, is private player Blackbrush Oil and Gas’ Yanta et Al Unit 5H well in Eagle Ford Shale, Karnes County, producing 2,470 barrels of 45° mix of light and condensate with 4,600 metric tons of sand at a total cost of [$]7.86 [million]. Also nominated is EOG Resources’ State Galileo 6H well producing 2,133 barrels per day of 45° light oil in Bone Spring shale, Loving County, Permian Delaware County, with 3,430 metric tons of sand at a total cost of [$]5.44 [million].
According to the EIA, the average spot price for a barrel of benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) in 2015 was $48.67. In 30 days the Blackbrush well produced 74,100 barrels of oil that were worth about $3.6 million at a well cost of $7.86 million. Figuring that the production cost was $25 a barrel, profit on that well came in at around $1.75 million for that first month. Drilling costs on this well would be amortized in less than six months, about the time a typical fracked shale well hits its peak production. Everything after that is profit, less production costs.