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There are no two better fields in the Williston Basin for middle Bakken results than Parshall and Sanish. Parshall and Sanish fields are the focal point of EOG Resources' (NYSE:EOG) and Whiting's (NYSE:WLL) Bakken plays. EOG and Whiting were some of the earliest operators; this kept acreage costs down but also provided its pick of the best leaseholds. These two fields have seen more development than any other area of the Bakken. All have very good results, but both have a different history. Geology is not much different, except the depth of the middle Bakken and Sanish Sands.

(click to enlarge)

The Three Forks is also shallower than around the Nesson Anticline. Shale thickness seems consistent in both the middle Bakken and Three Forks. The isopach below shows Bakken thickness of over 120 feet. Keep in mind thicker shale does not necessarily mean better EURs; it could provide a larger number of locations. This is evident in the picture below.

(click to enlarge)

Whiting believes it can maintain seven locations per mile in the Sanish Field. The lower Bakken shale is extremely thick in both the Sanish and Parshall fields. It will maintain only three in the upper Three Forks. The Hidden Bench prospect is very interesting as it plans to drill eight locations in the middle Bakken, but this probably has to do with the Bakken Silt being thicker in this area. The upper Three Forks could be a big deal in this leasehold as it plans seven locations. It is twice as thick as in Mountrail County. The Pronghorn Sands may have something to do with this as well, but that is a guess on my part. Obviously, the Bakken is the focus in both Parshall and Sanish. Below is a Bakken isopach.

The Three Forks is comprised of two to four layers or benches of shale. The Three Forks has seen less development than the middle Bakken. EURs of the Three Forks in Mountrail County have lagged other areas. Northeast McKenzie County's Three Forks' locations have been the best in play, but there have been excellent Pronghorn Sands results in Billings and Stark counties. As seen above, the first bench of the Three Forks is somewhat thin compared to McKenzie County. Below is a Three Forks' map providing shale thickness.

The thickest shale is found in northwest Dunn and southeast McKenzie. Mountrail County looks promising at an approximate 225 feet. Shale thickness isn't the issue here, as Parshall Field produces less natural gas and exhibits lower pressure than northeast McKenzie County. It is also not as deep. Both should affect IP rates and EURs in a negative manner.

With respect to well design, these companies couldn't be more different. EOG used mainly short laterals with tight stages and large amounts of water and proppant. EOG has kept its wells on a very tight choke, but has opened its wells up some in 2012 and 2013. It has kept its costs down by self sourcing sand, and being very good at cutting costs. It was also the first operator to rail Bakken crude to St. James for LLS pricing. This significantly increased crude revenues, obtaining LLS pricing. Whiting uses long laterals with longer stages and smaller amounts of water and proppant. It has used a middle of the road choke size that inflates IP rates early with depletion being a little higher. EOG has been able to use a better well design and keep costs lower, while Whiting has kept costs in check by using less sand and water. Whiting and EOG have been able to keep costs low in these prospective fields.

EOG started developing the Parshall Field at around the same time as Whiting started working the Sanish. The big difference has to do with the amount of wells turned to sales. EOG completed 22 wells in 2006 and 2007. One of these wells is on pace to produce revenues over $100 million. Below is the Parshall well design over that specific timeframe.

WellLateral Ft.Water Bbls.Proppant Lbs.30-Day IP Bo/d90-Day IP Bo/d180-Day IP Bo/d
163703764 672484408
1637143921719015900001367937681
1646947052470421982911037869690
1648343941814916914001127812600
165504433170411919090927633506
1657847532041420528591040729610
166714638176611803224862683555
16713466418980194830713821000821
16768447120059191079516261133903
167954308256531624300147610171038
161641803 312225242
163242575 549367350
163465371 749509443
164574250176931091000971731623
164614957 470456479
164674292176651789276730472437
164974472180071738700852844614
1653248401953520398001136745595
165435082182201538557947668522
166354569186301752960461427385
166375293213442182146953724557
1677634587310414000770548444
Avg.4340187211722630928682568

Some of the above wells are missing data on water and proppant. Water, proppant and stages were not documented by most operators this early. This lack of data creates some issues, especially with respect to stage length. This may be one of the most important factors, as it improves source rock stimulation.

As a comparison, I have produced a table of Whiting's well results in the Sanish Field from 2006 to 2008. I could not generate enough data to produce a good average number with just 2007. This is important as EOG paved the way for other operators, and its results are twelve months earlier than Whiting's. I think this gives Whiting a little bit of an advantage as it was able to see what EOG was doing for an additional year. Below I have provided Whiting's well design and results for this specific timeframe. It produced 26 results compared to EOG's 22.

Whiting's Sanish Field Well Design 2006-2008
WellLateral Ft.StagesWater Bbls.Proppant Lbs.30-Day IP Bo/d90-Day IP Bo/d180-Day IP B/od
160924994 495197695942
160686190 474452124198159
167317625 1900000862663582
164639815 1141429714598469
170729398 1240000817670660
169029516 1840000859620494
171379644 179751844000572463354
169058739 189851598000594416340
171739612 175601801000824593482
173919538 17925184100013391013839
170359466 1841000850856761
171338872 1793000636671432
171589500 19246184000012541056916
170239443 16255001281999873
171348607 194071840000953674620
168529432 1244000793672531
172539509 191251840000894723568
175869698 192321830000547579509
167807719 1951000878680549
170329473 1069000655573466
172849461 167231451700389271233
167818365 2044160880491347
167348482 1963740402320278
172409378 177651539000590414280
170819645 19208184200013111013828
170929537 170500011247991019
Avg.8910 184681599776777619524

The above tables show like numbers for both water and proppant. EOG used a much better design with short laterals throughout. Whiting did have a couple of early wells that were quite low in production. This did hurt its average, as one well produced a 180-Day IP rate of 42 Bo/d. Whiting almost immediately moved to long laterals, which did improve its total EURs per well. IP rates of EOG's short laterals are better than Whiting's long laterals. EOG used twice the water and proppant per foot, but was able to produce more from less. The water and proppant amounts did better EOG's production, but it would seem source rock stimulation is the key to overall long-term production. It would seem EOG has found a good balance between stimulation, water and proppant usage. EOG's cumulative production is listed below. As stated in earlier articles, EOG's Parshall Field has produced more of the top 20 cumulative oil producers than any other operator.

WellCrudeCrude RevenuesGasGas RevenuesTotal RevenuesDays
1637037049233344280166576666304340105842096
1637147980143182090233971935884441179742157
1646946213641592240234438937752425299921938
1648345464040917600195031780124416977242182
1655035118331606470106714426856320333261917
1657842736238462580245121980484394430641948
1667139628135665290203978815912364812021990
1671349989944990910235356941424459323341863
1676855598050038200235439941756509799561939
16795565908509317202757091102836520345561959
161641781031602927078951315804163450743295
1632429033526130150130151520604266507542327
1634641396937257210192953771812380290222244
1645739069635162640150464601856357644962053
1646143280638952540177378709512396620522148
1646728351825516620146344585376261019961966
1649740006036005400169988679952366853521977
1653242768538491650221441885764393774142094
1654336995733296130174813699252339953822085
166352175031957527078919315676198909462038
1663734955731460130117751471004319311341951
1677626978924281010107890431560247125701642
Avg.39034835131336167244705341353821322082

The above results are incredible. Using $90/Bbl crude and $4/Mcf, we see significant earnings in Parshall Field. The average well produced over $35 million in revenues. Granted, the gas lines may not have been in, and oil prices did sink during "The Great Recession," but I had to use a set price for comparison. Its wells have produced a little over five and a half years. This leaves another 30 to 35 years of production. Depending on the model used, we could see these revenues double over the life of all these wells. This would bring the average to over $70 million/well. I would guess these wells will not model like current completions. Most of these wells used no ceramic proppant. Given the depth and pressure, we could see the sand crushed under the weight of the formation. This would shut off the resource to the well. There is a chance that EOG's numbers outperform due to where it drilled middle Bakken wells. Most of its wells were drilled diagonally through each mile. This could be the best area of the shale to drill and complete, but it makes pad drilling a little worrisome. Whiting did a nice job of planning ahead so it could infill easier, with less worry about communication between wells. Below I have provided the cumulative production for Whiting's Sanish wells.

Whiting's Cumulative Production
WellCrudeCrude RevenuesGasGas RevenuesTotal RevenuesDays
160923181428632604957819831230615721692
1606815938814344920130069520276148651962307
16731479609431648103084661233864443986741928
16463375379337841103530331412132351962422146
17072508737457863302914081165632469519621495
1690234159630743640232623930492316741321719
1713721964519768050185010740040205080901432
1690519830017847000186501746004185930041064
1717324904222413780225781903124225169041440
17391563571507213903193781277512519989021528
17035717402645661804467611787044663532241621
17133404239363815102813001125200375067101485
17158791220712098004922131968852731786521602
17023616908555217203963871585548571072681692
17134399443359498702739971095988370458581633
1685239739035765100243363973452367385521585
1725336654532989050213240852960338420101346
1758636767133090390229660918640340090301644
16780442113397901702991801196720409868901830
1703230323627291240189529758116280493561519
1728412447811203020141089564356117673761327
16781428482385633806356102542440411058201818
1673422186319967670188622754488207221581568
1724018572916715610218675874700175903101398
17081600365540328503129091251636552844861570
17092919147827232305682582273032849962621694
Avg.400512360460802851021140408371864881619

Whiting's wells produced a little over a year and three months less than EOG's. Average revenues were better by a little less than $2 million. It did this with slightly less water and proppant per well. The differences aren't seen until we break down design and production per foot of lateral.

OperatorWater Bbls/Ft.Proppant Lbs./Ft.180-Day Production Bbls./Ft.
EOG4.339723.6
WLL2.118010.6

The results were really surprising, as well design does seem to factor in short and long term results. These two fields are right next to each other, sharing the eastern Sanish border with the western Parshall border. Although geology could differ significantly from one mile to the next, it doesn't seem to be the main factor for the difference in these results. The results indicate short laterals produce better source rock stimulation. This produces more and better fractures. This followed by more water and proppant per foot will not only increase short-term, but also long-term production. Even more interesting is the percentage of increase in production per foot when compared to water and proppant per foot. EOG used 215% more water per foot than Whiting. It also used 221% more proppant per foot. This resulted in an increase of 223% of total barrels of crude produced per foot at 180 days. This suggests a correlation in the percentage of returns from water and proppant to production.

In summary, it is my belief that geology is the predominant factor in developing a model for production in the Bakken/Three Forks. That said, the best middle Bakken acreage is in southwestern Mountrail County. The Sanish and Parshall fields seem to have a dominant geology, as do Alger and Ross fields in the same area. Companies like Statoil (NYSE:STO) and Hess (NYSE:HES) have significant leaseholds in Alger and Ross, and have had their best results in those specific areas. This is obvious in other areas as well, and the reason QEP Resources (NYSE:QEP) paid top dollar to get into Grail Field. Halcon (NYSE:HK) also paid to get Petro-Hunt's Fort Berthold acreage, while Kodiak (NYSE:KOG) bought Liberty. All of these areas have out-produced neighboring fields and will probably continue to do so. I am not saying that I believe Whiting or EOG Resources will be purchased; only that operators will pay a significant price per acre to get into that specific geology. Geology can be manipulated through well design. EOG continues to dump three times the proppant/foot in the Bakken and Eagle Ford. This has produced some of the best completions in 2012 and 2013. It has been replicated in southwest Mountrail, northeast McKenzie and western Williams counties. Kodiak purchased Liberty Resources for its well results in western Williams and northern McKenzie acreage. Liberty had similar results to EOG in western Williams, by using three times the water. I would guess the best areas have much better natural fracturing, but an operator still needs to properly stimulate the source rock to garner those resources.

Source: Bakken Update: EOG, Whiting Well Results Prove Parshall Field More Productive Than The Sanish

Additional disclosure: This is not a buy recommendation. The projections or other information regarding the likelihood of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, are not guaranteed for accuracy or completeness, do not reflect actual investment results, do not take in consideration commissions, margin interest and other costs, and are not guarantees of future results. All investments involve risk, losses may exceed the principal invested, and the past performance of a security, industry, sector, market or financial product does not guarantee future results or returns. For more articles like this check out my website at shaleexperts.com. Fracwater Solutions L.L.C. engages in industrial water solutions for oil and gas companies in North Dakota. This includes constructing water depots, pipelines and disposal wells. It also provides contracting services for all types of construction at well sites. Other services include soil remediation. Please contact me via email if you are interested in working with us. More of my articles and other pertinent information on the oil and gas sector, go to shaleexperts.com.