Hitting the Sweet Spot

The following has been posted with permission from Central PA Shale Play: By MORGAN MYERS Susquehanna Countyhas best-producingwell in the state

Which unconventional Marcellus Shale well has the highest production rate in Pennsylvania?

According to Department of Environmental Protection’s most recent production reports, the A Heitzenroder 3 well, operated in Susquehanna County by Cabot Oil & Gas, is the best-producing well in the state.

Cabot’s A Heitzenroder 3 well produced about 4.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas during the July to Dec. 2012 DEP reporting period.

“The reward in the Marcellus has been overwhelming,” George Stark, director, external affairs, Cabot said.

Stark attributes the company’s production success to efficient and effective drilling and fracking techniques.

“Production numbers depend on where you land the drill bit, how you go across the shale horizontallyand from there, the spacing requirements and the amount of stages,” Stark said.

To maximize the fractures in the target formation, hydraulic fracturing is performed multiple times along sections of the wellbore, known as stages.

“We believe we have developed and identified the proper spacing between stages. We efficiently set off those stages so when we put a well into production, we end up getting numbers off the charts,” Stark said.

The number of stages can also influence production, according to Zach Waite of Citrus Energy Corp. Citrus Energy had the top-producing well for the Jan. to June 2012 reporting period, the Johnston 1- 1H well, which produced 4.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas in Wyoming County.

“The Johnston 1-1H was the longest lateral that Citrus had drilled at the time, which allowed for more completion stages,” Waite said. “Based on the initial production rates, we were very pleased and expected the Johnston 1-1H to be a top performer.”

Other factors impacting production rates include shale depth, thickness, thermal maturity and matrix porosity.

“When you start the drilling process, you drill an exploratory well to collect data. Then you drill some others that will hopefully prove your hypothesis,” Stark said.

The A Heitzenroder 3 well is part of a roughly 2,000-acre, mostly-contiguous Cabot leasehold.

“We’re trying to create units that are contiguous and allow us to effectively drain the reservoir. You don’t want to have 30 acres and then a piece that isn’t leased,” Stark said.

Although Cabot is involved in Marcellus Shale-related activity Commonwealth-wide, the company drills solely in Susquehanna County, according to Stark.

The natural gas in Susquehanna County is primarily methane, or “dry gas,” as opposed to “wet gas,” which contains additional components such as ethane and butane.

“We knew that we’d be targeting and producing dry gas. Another way of describing dry gas is ‘pipeline quality.’ Dry gas requires very little polishing before it goes into the pipeline system to be used for generating electricity,” Stark said.

With end-users in mind, Cabot developed its core footprint close to the Tennessee Pipeline.

“We have the immediacy of being able to get our gas to market,” Stark said.

Cabot recently announced a gross production rate of 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, enough to supply over 24,000 households with their electrical needs for a year.

“Even with decreasing natural gas cost, we’re still able to produce long-term because of our high productivity,” Stark said.

A given well’s production rate will decline over time until finally it stops producing altogether.

“Size, spacing and amount of reservoir goes into determining the lifespan of a well, typically 30 years and beyond,” Stark said.

“Using decline curve engineering estimation, Citrus estimates that the Johnston 1-1H will produce for approximately 35 to 40 years,” Waite said.

The current production rate of the Johnston 1-1H well is approximately one-third of the rate that was established when the well was first brought online a year and a half ago, according to Waite. But even with a declining production rate, the Johnston 1- 1H still is the number four best producing well in the state, according to DEP’s most recent production report.

In addition to outstanding production rates, the Marcellus also is well-situated next to major population centers, unlike most shale plays. Companies like Cabot are re-investing their capital into the Marcellus, noting its strategic proximity to markets in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

“The Marcellus will always set the floor. You cannot beat the Marcellus in its economics,” Stark said.

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Sarah was born in Lewistown, Pennsylvania- a small town in central PA. She is currently attending Pennsylvania State University majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Recreation, Park and Tourism Management. She is presently working as an Intern in External Affairs for Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation. Sarah’s responsibilities include writing for Cabot’s social media, scheduling content and event planning.

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