Production from shale gas reservoirs has formed an increasingly large part of the U.S. natural gas mix in the last few years. More than half of the rigs in onshore U.S. will be drilling horizontal wells with a large majority in shale plays. (Baker Hughes, 2010) Within the last year, shale gas plays have dominated the onshore U.S. natural gas drilling activity, with this boom occurring during a time of economic uncertainty. However, skepticism has recently been placed on shale gas production decline trends from consultants and investment firms, where estimated ultimate recoveries (EURs) and the overall economic feasibility of shale gas plays have been brought into question.

EURs of shale gas wells have been forecast in a number of ways within the industry. Some entities have been calculating EURs based on initial production rates (IPs). Others are applying the decline trends established in one basin to a different, newer basin with less production history. In other cases, two different operators may use different trend types in wells that are in the same location.

This paper seeks to more accurately assess the decline trends and EURs of these shale plays, if the decline trends are improving, and what returns are required to make a well economically feasible. This study compares the production trends of horizontal wells in the Barnett Shale, Fayetteville Shale, Woodford Shale, Haynesville Shale, and Eagle Ford Shale plays, analyzing each over time to determine if there have been improvements in production. Where applicable we address the impact that technology has made in this enhanced production. Furthermore, the decline trends of horizontal shale to horizontal tight gas sandstone plays are examined to look for differences and shed some light on potential EURs.

The results of the analysis helped establish which decline trends could be used to determine the EUR of these horizontal shale wells, or if a better methodology may exist. A basic economic analysis to estimate breakeven gas price for a median (P50) horizontal well in each play was performed.

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