While every tight oil play is unique, there are lessons that can be transferred from one play to another to improve the efficiency and pace of production operations and development. These improvements may not fit precisely in every basin or play but generally hold to themes that can be tested against and built upon. Themes such as the quantity of proppant, longer lateral length, or the number of stages can be directly tied to increased productivity. However, there are diminishing returns on these investment activities for which each operator, within a given play, will be required to identify and mitigate against.
This is especially true as the industry steps in and begins developing new tight oil plays. In their nascent stages, these plays may have limited well penetrations and, as a result, limited geological and performance data from which to extrapolate. Pulling together an understanding of where the industry currently resides in terms of how to exploit these resources can provide a boost in terms of working towards greatly improved well completions.
In 2019, the US EIA estimated that nearly 8 million barrels of oil per day were produced from tight oil reservoirs in the United States (US EIA, 2020). This represents over 60% of the domestic crude production, originating from multiple reservoirs in the Permian Basin (TX) as well as the Bakken (MT, ND), Eagle Ford (TX), Niobrara (CO, WY), and Anadarko Basin (OK) formations, among others. As such, there are 1,000s of wells across these numerous tight oil plays that can relate an informative story. To build this story, the interplay of geology, well spacing, lateral length, and stimulation, all critical to economic success, will be explored.
This paper proposes to look back at these mature tight oil (and gas) basins and bring forth an understanding of what lessons can be applied to the emerging Powder River Basin tight oil reservoirs (Mowry and the Turner/Frontier). The authors will delve into the four broad topics of geology, well spacing, lateral length, and stimulation, highlighting case studies to demonstrate those lessons from established tight oil plays that will underpin planned activities at a Field Laboratory Test Site in the southern Powder River Basin.