The Denver-Julesburg Basin has been going through a new cycle of development with horizontal drilling and high-intensity hydraulic fracturing. Since the first horizontal wells in 2008, more than 4,000 horizontals have been drilled, leading to a four-fold production increase between 2008 and 2012. While completion practices have been fairly similar across the basin over these early-development years, several operators are now starting to experiment with different completion designs. The objective of this paper is to discuss the benefits of these new designs and further evaluate what completion changes deliver the most "bang for the buck" in a challenging pricing environment. Use of a novel completion design and development of a low-cost ultra-low concentration fluid system resulted in significant cost saving while maintaining or improving overall production, thus lowering $/BOE in a challenging industry environment.

Lowering cost per BOE drove a process of completion design changes that started with fluid compatibility testing, including regained permeability testing in proppant load cells, which showed that a light and more cost-effective Borate Guar can result in similar or better cleanup than a CMHPG-Zirconate system traditionally used in the DJ basin. Multi-variate analysis results from an extensive petrophysical / completion / production database showed production in the basin predominantly benefits from increase proppant volume and higher stage intensity. Field implementation of this system and a design with more proppant and stage intensity focused on consistently being able to place higher proppant loadings with less polymer.

More than 150 horizontal wells were completed between mid-2014 and early 2016 in T5-6N R64-67W while implementing this strategy. When compared to about 350 other horizontal wells, mostly completed without these changes, overall results of the new completion strategy have been very encouraging:

  • Higher injection rates and improved pump time to downtime resulted in a 20+% reduction in days required to complete a typical 8-well pad. Over a period of about 130 pumping days, more than 2,100 frac stages were completed. Supply chain efficiency improvements were implemented to keep up with proppant demand averaging 3.5 million pounds of sand every day, occasionally peaking to above 8 million pounds of sand per day;

  • A new ultra-low concentration Guar Borate system was developed that could be crosslinked at concentrations down to 8 lbs/Mgal. Together with high rate, this fluid system enables placing proppant concentrations up to 6 PPA, making the system significantly cheaper and cleaner than the conventional 20+ lbs/Mgal CMHPG systems that were routinely used in the DJ Basin.

  • Overall production in both Codell and Niobrara was above results for nearby peers over a wide range of production metrics. A petrophysical workflow was developed to arrive at a proper apples-to-apples comparison of historical production response in the area as compared with the results associated with this new strategy. Through various statistical analysis tools such as multi-variate analysis, the authors evaluated the importance of both reservoir and completion changes, and identified several key characteristics that are closely tied to the highest production responses in the DJ Basin.

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