Advanced Bakken completions, cost-control has Whiting inspired

By Luke Geiver | November 06, 2018

For four straight quarters, Whiting Petroleum has generated free cash flow. If the Denver-based E&P that is heavily focused on the Williston Basin ends the year with its current production momentum, CEO Brad Holly believes the company will have a strong year. Over the past four quarters, Whiting has exceeded capital expenditures by roughly $325 million thanks to a focus on cost control of operations and lease operating expenses. Heading into the final quarter, Holly also believes the company’s intense analysis on advanced completion designs will pay off. In Q4, Whiting will add another 5 percent increase to production from wells that will be brought online in areas that were previously drilled and completed using old strategies.

In most cases, Whiting’s new advanced completion techniques have increased production in wells by 83 percent. Whiting has retooled its completion strategy four times starting in 2010 with generation one. From 2010 to 2012, the operator pumped 240 lbs per foot of proppant in stages spaced at 380 feet apart. The downhole tooling used to perform the fracks during that two-year period utilized packers with ball and sleeves. Nearly 4 barrels of fluid were used per foot.

In generation two and generation three designs, volumes for proppant and fluids all increased. Fracture stage spacing decreased to 240 feet between stages. Cemented liners were added along with the use of diverter material in the fracture fluids.

Under the current fracture design—generation 4—Whiting is pushing 600 to 1,200 pounds of proppant per foot into its wells. Stage spacing is at a range of 200 to 300 feet while a range of 15 to 40 bbl/ft of fluid is used. Cluster spacing is now down to a range of 30 to 50 feet, every well uses a cemented liner, along with diverter material. For infill wells with high remaining recoverable oil in place, large geometry fracks are used. But, for drilling spacing units with high parent well counts, near-wellbore completion geometry is the goal. All completions are now optimized to the situation, the company said, and the optimum design for each well includes calibrated completion models, multivariate analysis to understand which completion factors will most heavily affect the results in each area and also the use of the new technologies available from preferred service companies.

Michael Stevens, senior vice president and Chief Financial Officer, said next year Whiting will be well hedged with almost 10 million barrels hedged. Through the first half of 2019, 41 percent of Whiting’s production is already hedged and in the second half of next year, nearly 21 percent is hedged. Stevens said the hedges on Whiting’s oil includes collars in the $50/b range and ceilings at $80/b.

Since Holly has taken over as CEO, Whiting has implemented its optimized completion strategy, adding a drilling rate of return metric to the executive compensation plan, improved netbacks at the wellhead through a greater focus on the oil and gas marketing process and contract structure and reorganized the Bakken team structure to streamline communications and learning across the organization.