Horizontal drilling has become the most common drilling style in western Canada since its introduction over 25 years ago. Initially, target plays were conventional reservoirs where horizontal length improved the recovery that was limited in vertical wells by reservoir heterogeneity and/or unconventional hydrocarbon quality. More recently, horizontal drilling has also targeted unconventional plays characterized by low reservoir quality where completions are critical. Operators have embraced the horizontal well technology advances, especially when combined with the revolution in multi stage frac'ing.

Through 2012 and 2013, more than 4100 horizontal oil wells and more than 900 horizontal gas wells were drilled and brought onstream, annually. Production rates from these wells have topped 1 million boe per day.

This paper provides an overview of the most active plays in the WCSB, from a horizontal well perspective. The paper also includes discussions of trends in horizontal well drilling activity, technology and productivity by:

  • play (location, formation, commodity, new target vs. redevelopment of established pools)

  • technology (treated horizontal well lengths, frac metrics)

  • productivity metrics

  • operator comparisons

Further, selected plays are examined in more detail, to get to the heart of this horizontal well technology roll-out.

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