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Springer Shale - From Benchwarmer to Starter

Oil and gas stealth plays are mysterious by design – operators keep mum while quietly building a land position before deciding whether to go public with initial results. Some companies are built on stealth plays; choosing to prove up the opportunity and then selling off to a larger operator such as Vitruvian II’s sale of its SCOOP position to Gulfport Energy in 2017. Others choose to grow organically, such as Southwestern Energy when it unveiled the Fayetteville Shale in 2004. Stealth plays by nature are an experiment and the risks may not balance the reward, as we’ve seen with some recent ventures like Cabot Oil & Gas’s Rome and Knox tests in central Ohio or, to a more technically successful but commercially uncertain degree, Apache’s Alpine High in West Texas. The Springer Shale play successfully grew in the shadows of the active SCOOP Woodford play, with Continental Resources going public first with its position in 2012.

Operators typically get a glance of the Springer Formation, alternatively called the Goddard, on the way down to the deeper, more proven Woodford. With three organic-rich hydrocarbon source beds, the Springer drew the attention of operators typically focusing on the uppermost bench, commonly referred to as the M1 (Figure 1).

FIGURE 1 | Simplified Springer Well Log


Source | RSEG


The Springer would often get bypassed due to the thin, sporadic presence of the organic-rich beds. This was coupled with prevalent borehole integrity issues related to sloughing clays present in the rock. Other contending elements include the highly structured and variable nature of the SCOOP, which limits where the formation can be exploited, as well as how many benches can be drilled. Advancements in drilling techniques and mud additives designed to mitigate sloughing clay issues have enabled operators to successfully exploit the Springer. The remaining challenge is fully delineating the play, proving its economic viability and assessing its available running room.



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