Experience RS

Completions in the Utica

In the current low-price environment, the focus by both operators and investors has shifted towards efficient completion designs to maximize productivity gains in existing acreage. This trend applies to the Utica Shale play in the eastern Ohio and its key players: RICE Energy (NYSE: RICE), Antero Resources (NYSE: AR), Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK), Eclipse Resources (NYSE: ECR), Gulfport Energy (NASDAQ: GPOR) and the privately-held Ascent Resources.

Most completions now utilize slickwater designs with sand as the main proppant. As completions practices evolve, operators have experimented with stage spacing, proppant intensity and lateral length to maximize the value of this combined dry gas and condensate-rich resource. Current completions practices by the major producers are compared in Figure 1

FIGURE 1 | Completion Designs by Operator Through Time

Effective stage spacing is critical to well performance and must be optimized against the characteristics of the reservoir itself. Figure 2 shows the general trend over the last few years has been toward tighter stage spacing, with averages falling from about 380 feet in 2013 to 180 feet in 2016. Chesapeake currently has the largest spacing at 239 feet between stages while Eclipse is on the other end of the spectrum with 139 feet.

FIGURE 2 | Operators Moving Toward Tighter Stage Spacing Over Time

Over the last few years, companies have employed increases in proppant intensity with the average moving from approximately 1,350 lbs/ft in 2013 to 1,660 lbs/ft in 2016. RICE currently has the greatest proppant intensity at an average of 2,900 lbs/ft, followed by Eclipse at 2,200 lbs/ft.

FIGURE 3 | Increasing Proppant Intensity Over Time

Operators continue to push the limits of lateral length with a nearly 4,000 foot increase from 2013 to 2016, illustrated in Figure 4. ECR has drilled the longest wells in the play with completed laterals ranging from 15,600 feet to 19,500 feet.

FIGURE 4 | Increasing Lateral Length Over Time

With the advent of “super-laterals,” increasing proppant intensities and tighter stage spacing, aggressive completions techniques will continue to be the focus of major players drilling through the core of the Utica in eastern Ohio.

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