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A frack crew works at a Whiting Petroleum well site in Mountrail County, June 23, 2015. Photo: Maxine Herr.

Dunn County well reveals strength of Whiting’s enhanced completions

Experimenting with enhanced well completions has Whiting Petroleum delivering 40 to 50 percent higher production from older offset wells in the Williston Basin.

One of its Skunk Creek wells in South Fork field of northeast Dunn County reached an initial 24-hour production rate of 4,300 barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) per day from an enhanced completion middle Bakken well, making its mark as one of the best wells drilled in the county to-date.

“We’re pumping a lot more sand and getting a lot higher rates,” Senior Vice President Mark Williams said in a July 30 quarterly conference call. “We got a little bit later start on Dunn, but the early results are very encouraging. … I don’t see an area within our acreage that isn’t going to benefit very significantly from these enhanced completions.”

The completions are showing a “very strong” correlation between higher sand volumes and better early production, but Williams expects the estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) will rise as well.

With the enhanced completions, well costs are a bit higher at $7 million to $7.5 million, but President Jim Volker said 40 to 50 percent lift in production – even 80 percent in some areas – make it worth the steeper price tag.

“We’re doing a much better job of breaking up the reservoir and accessing a lot more of the reservoir upfront, and that’s what’s responsible for the increase in rates,” Volker explained.

Because of the company’s takeover of Kodiak Oil and Gas late last year, Whiting gained some highly coveted acreage that Volker said is providing “the biggest bang for the buck.”

When asked if further acquisitions or mergers were on the horizon, Volker said there are always options but the company remains discerning.

“It’s always cheaper to just lease than it is to buy from somebody else. So, I do see the opportunity to expand our acreage positions,” Volker said.

Related: Whiting would add rigs if oil prices hit $70 per barrel

Adjusting capex – again

As oil prices fell below $50 a barrel, Whiting announced a capital spending cut on July 29 after raising it by 15 percent less than two weeks prior. The company pulled three rigs from its anticipated 11-rig program with six of the eight operating in the Bakken. But Volker insists the budget is flexible, so if oil prices recover more than anticipated, the company can ramp up for further growth. In a low price environment, however, it can control costs.

“We are well positioned from a liquidity and debt maturity perspective to deal with lower oil prices,” he said. “We are tooling Whiting to run and grow at $40 to $50 oil.”

As the state’s leading oil producer, Whiting holds approximately 737,000 net acres in the Williston Basin of North Dakota and Montana and averages nearly 136,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day from the Bakken/Three Forks.

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