No news in downhole completions apparently is not bad news in the Marcellus Shale. Though, good news is not likely until the natural gas market recovers.
Meanwhile, a blanket of homogeneity overlies regional completion techniques. Whether wet or dry gas the completion solution is the same: slickwater treatment using up to 11 million pounds of white sand per lateral in a plug and perf configuration on spacing between 200 feet and 250 feet.
Spacing between stages may have tightened incrementally in the last 90 days, but operators are unwilling to fix what isn’t broken in Marcellus natural gas completions.
The only exception regionally involves some of the hotter, deeper Utica wells, although the trend in the deep Utica seems to be moving away from ceramics and towards the Appalachian standard slickwater white sand plug and perf completion methodology.
The percentage of batch completions, or zipper fracks, has fallen below 50% over the last 90 days—down from 61% in February—as operators rein in capital spending. Survey participants cite Halliburton Co. (NYSE: HAL) and U.S. Well Services LLC as holding a majority of scarce regional well stimulation work currently.
However, the “no news” story has not changed when it comes to Marcellus refracks. The technique represents roughly 5% of the market when combined with restimulation and remedial work into a broader category labeled well rejuvenation.
Refracture stimulation has been confined to a handful of major operators in Appalachia, mostly using Halliburton for the job.
Part I. – Survey Findings
Among Survey Participants:
- Slickwater Completions Most Common
[See Question 1 on Statistical Review]
All eight respondents reported that slickwater is most common in the region, with several respondents reporting gel is rarely used even with ceramics in Utica wells now.
- Mid-Tier Operator: “We use slickwater and white sand exclusively in the Marcellus now. The results show no benefit of using gel or ceramics in this pay zone.”
- No Changes Expected In Near-Term
[See Question 2 on Statistical Review]
All respondents expect few or no changes in the near term. Sand volumes and methods are reportedly staying the same on horizontal wells in the Marcellus. Only deeper Utica wells get treated differently.
- Spacing Between Frack Stages Averages 210 Feet
[See Questions 3a and 3b Statistical Review]
Spacing ranges between 200 feet to 250 feet in the play and averages about 210 feet, about the same that was reported in January. Most respondents have kept spacing about the same this year, but one has shortened spacing to about 200 feet on most wells now.
- Mid-Tier Operator: “We consistently set spacing between 200 feet to 225 feet now on Marcellus wells. It seems to get us great results.”
- Plug And Perf Most Common Fracking Technique
[See Question 4 on Statistical Review]
All respondents reported that plug and perf completions are the standard fracking technique in the Marcellus now.
- Top-Tier Service Provider: “The plug and perf slickwater frack with lots of white sand continues to work well. We just need better gas pricing and pipeline capacity now.”
- Refrack Still Small Percentage Of All Work; Halliburton Leads
[See Question 5a, 5b, 5c on Statistical Review]
Respondents reported that refrack work is limited to only a few majors in the play and accounts for only 5% of all frack work done. However, new completions account for the lion’s share (or 95%) of all frack work done in the play. Respondents said Halliburton was the leading service provider doing refrack work and was tied with U.S. Well Service for new frack work.
- Mid-Tier Operator: “We do some remediation and restimulation, but it seems to me only a couple of majors do much refrack here and they are using Halliburton.”
- Multi-Well Pads Average ~6 Wells Per Pad
[See Question 6 on Statistical Review]
Average number of wells reported per pad is about six. Reports ranged from four to six well pads in the region.
- Mid-Tier Operator: “Six wells per pad are most common, but we have seen some do more and others less.”
- Zipper Fracks Account For 48% Of Completions; Solo Fracks Account For Remainder
[See Question 7 on Statistical Review]
The percentage of zipper frack completions reported among respondents is 48%, a decrease from the 61% reported in January. The remaining 52% of wells are fracked one well at a time and continue to be common in the low gas price environment.
- Top-Tier Operator: “Zipper fracks are still much more efficient when budgets allow for multi-well completions.”
- Sand Remains Most Common Proppant
[See Question 8a and 8b on Statistical Review]
Natural sand is reported as the most common proppant in the region and averages about 10.8 million pounds per well, up from January but in line with reports of sand usage in 2015. Sand is now used as the proppant of choice in 100% of Marcellus wells as reported by respondents, though ceramics are still used in deeper Utica wells.
- Three or Four Perf Sets Per Stage Most Common
[See Question 9a and 9b on Statistical Review]
Respondents reported that three to four perf sets per stage are common with enhanced horizontal completion methods currently. No service provider has reported any change in techniques during the past six months.
End Survey Findings
H A R T E N E R G Y researchers completed interviews with eight industry participants in the downhole completions segment in the Marcellus shale area. Participants include six sales professionals with fracking service companies and two representatives for E&P companies. Interviews were conducted during late April 2016.
Part II. – Statistical Review
Total Respondents = 8
[Fracking service providers = 6, Operators = 2]
1. What common practices are used in your area for completions?
2. Do you see that changing over the next three to six months?
No changes expected:
3a. Is spacing between stages closer now than a year ago?
3b. What is the average distance between frack stages in your area?
200-foot to 225-foot spacing:
226-foot to 250-foot spacing:
4. What fracking technique is most common in your area?
Plug and perf:
5a. Looking at the number of total frack jobs in your area, what percentage is new fracks and what percentage is refracks?
New wells average:
5b. Which fracking company in your area is doing the most new frack work?
U.S. Well Service:
5c. What company is doing the most refracks in your area?
6. What is the average number of wells being completed per pad in your area?
~6 wells per pad
7. What percentage of fracks drilled from pads are zipper fracks vs. individual fracks?
8a. How much proppant (in pounds) are you using per well?
8-10 million pounds:
11-12 million pounds:
Average per well:
~10.8 million pounds
8b. On a percentage basis, how much proppant in the Marcellus Shale is used by type?
Average Among Respondents
Natural sand only:
* Ceramics reportedly used only in deeper Utica wells.
9a. How many perf clusters are typical between stages?
Three to four sets
9b. Is that more or less than six months ago?
Same; All respondents answered that perf clusters are within the range of three to four sets per stage with none reporting an increase over six months ago.