WPX Drills a 36-well Pad in the Piceance

“You’ve heard us talk about drilling 18 to 22 wells per pad in the Piceance,” says Bryan Guderian, WPX’s senior vice president of business development.

“We’re stretching the envelope on that. We drilled a 36-well pad, a new record for WPX.”

The development is in an area called Flat Iron Mesa, which is located in the South Rulison field. The rig deployed here – a Nabors Super Sundowner – is a dual-fuel rig that runs partially on natural gas.

The new record is an extension of WPX’s “efficiency model” mindset. With simultaneous operations, WPX can drill, frac, complete and produce adjacent wells on the 36-well pad at the same time.

The Background

Drilling on the 36-well pad wrapped up in the latter half of 2014.

The production stream is predominantly natural gas, with some associated oil condensate and NGL. The average IP (initial production) rate per well is from 1-1.5 million cubic feet per day.

April Mestas, WPX regulatory and construction manager, says the plan for the 36-well pad kept evolving.

“At first we thought about several pads with a clustered plan of development,” says Mestas.

WPX worked with the BLM and collaborated on a plan to drill year-round, which was normally restricted in winter. The BLM indicated the project could proceed if WPX would consolidate its operation to two drilling pads.

“Then we decided that instead of drilling on two pads, why don’t we combine them?” Mestas says.

After permitting and drilling four initial wells in 2008 to hold the acreage, WPX teams went back in 2013 to restart the project. The 36-well pad is located on about 5 acres. A typical pad requires anywhere from 3-5 acres.

Benefits Add Up

“On the business side, it costs less to build one pad than two,” Mestas says.

Reducing the number of pads, roads and gas gathering infrastructure adds up to an estimated $500,000 in savings, or about $14,000 per well on the 36-well pad.

Faster drilling times also make a difference. So far, WPX’s fastest drilling time for a well on the 36-well pad is 7.8 days.

WPX transports water to and from the pad via flex steel pipe – running 6.5 miles from the pad to the water facility, says Steve Soychak, former district manager who retired in 2014.

“We’re able to save as much as $575,000 a year in water hauling, too,” Soychak said.

The real success behind this pad, however, is simply the ability to access the resource, says Chad Odegard, WPX’s Piceance vice president.

“The terrain in this area makes finding drill sites fairly difficult. With this pad, we preserved potential wells that will generate millions of dollars in revenue that would have been lost without some creative thinking.”

Adds long-time Drilling Manager Scott Brady, “It’s literally halfway up a mountainside at 7,600 feet. During the winter, we usually have 18-20 inches of snow up there.

“Having this pad helps with everything we do during development. It reduces transportation to and from the rig, and we’re reusing existing roads in locations with infrastructure already in place.

“We’ve been in the Piceance for 30 years, so we instinctively knew that by adding more wells per pad, we would increase efficiency, save resources and improve the environmental aspect,” says Brady.

Susan Alvillar, community affairs manager, has personally watched the project move concept to reality.

“We don’t think in terms of limitations, and we’ve proven over the course of time that nothing is impossible,” she says.

“You go into someone’s office, see a concept on a white board in marker, then a year later you’ll see it out in the field. It’s amazing.”