The Bakken drilling boom in North Dakota has seen a frenzy of activity over the past several years as operators sought to hold acreage and create value with the drill bit. This has been particularly true in the Central Basin portion of the Williston Basin where initial wells drilled prior to 2008 were uneconomic. However, advances in completion technology caused such a fundamental shift in economics that the whole Central Basin area of over 2500 square miles has been opened to economic development with ~100 rigs currently drilling in the region.

The most fundamental change in completion design has been the incorporation of "high-intensity" multi-stage fracturing. What makes Bakken completion design fundamentally different from recent shale gas developments has been the widespread use of uncemented liners with external packers in the open-hole lateral in order to create the multi-stage zonal isolation.

As operators have advanced the application of multi-stage completion techniques there has been a wide variety of completion equipment used and stimulation designs that have been pumped. This operator decided to employ a completion design that comprised:

  • An open-hole "uncemented" liner section;

  • Annular zonal isolation created by swell packers;

  • The use of "plug and perf" technology to individually open successive zones to stimulation;

  • The pumping of slickwater fracture treatment fluids at high rate;

  • The use of high-quality ceramic proppant to generate the required fracture conductivity.

Production data are presented from 58 wells in which this completion and stimulation design has been conducted, which show that the use of this approach has resulted in well performance that is 25-45% superior to any other Bakken completion technique.

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