WPX Energy calls it ‘The Beast,’ and more are on the way
Post Independent Staff
PARACHUTE — WPX Energy has lately been proudly pointing to a natural gas well that has outperformed every other well they’ve drilled in Garfield County and, according to the company, is the highest-performing well of its kind in the U.S.
It is located on a canyon wall above Parachute Creek, and they call it the “The Beast” because of its prodigious output. This output is largely attributed to the fact that it has punched into the Niobrara Formation at about 10,000 feet deep, rather than the more shallow formations the company has drilled into historically.
The Beast has caused jubilation among executives at WPX, and also has prompted questions among some observers about whether the higher production numbers will translate into an increase in jobs in the county.
“As we add wells and production to our Piceance asset,” wrote WPX spokesperson Susan Alvillar in a statement, “we add jobs in those areas. At this point, we intend to run seven rigs this year. We drilled the Beast last summer. We drilled two additional Niobrara wells this year, which we need to complete [meaning hydraulic fracturing of the well bores] and plan to drill two more [this year], schedule pending.”
The Beast is a horizontal well, meaning that the Cyclone 17 rig drilled down to the depth of the formation, then turned 90 degrees and drilled another 5,000 feet horizontally. The horizontal portion of the well was then hydraulically fractured [fracked] — the process was done about twice the amount as needed in an average directional well, and at pressures well above those used in earlier drilling efforts.
According to Alvillar, “A typical directional well has six to eight frack stages; The Beast had 16 stages. We normally frack at 7,000 pounds per square inch [exerted by the fracking fluids] — we fracked this well at 10,000 psi. It required some different valves with higher psi ratings.”
A fact sheet on the well states that it has put out 1.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas in its first 190 days of production, and declares, “The ‘Beast’ tops the nation’s list of Niobrara Shale wells.”
In addition, the fact sheet states, “The well produced in its first four months what a typical well in the Piceance Basin’s Williams Fork formation produces over its estimated life cycle of 25-30 years.”
As Alvillar recently said, “We expect The Beast well to produce as long as our Mesa Verde wells, which is 25-30 years. However, the first well in our asset began producing in 1986 — and is still producing at a good rate, so the real answer will be revealed over the course of time.”
According to the company’s second-quarter financial report, issued Aug. 1, WPX recently completed its second Niobrara well of the year, and plans to drill up to 14 more wells into the formation in 2014.
“As we add wells and production to our Piceance [Basin] asset[s], we add jobs in those areas,” Alvillar said.
She stated that the company currently employs approximately 220 people in Garfield County, as well as approximately 1,500 contractors.
“For every 100 wells or so, we need a couple more field technicians — we will drill about 200 wells this year,” she continued.
“An increase in drilling would mean an associated number of WPX employees and contractors; however, our planning for 2014 is still in progress,” she concluded.
For now, Alvillar said, the company plans to keep right on using the Cyclone 17 rigs it used to drill the Beast, and used to drill in the Mesa Verde formation prior to that.
But, she added, “If we decide to drill the formation at a higher elevation, we may need a larger rig.”
She said the company currently has sufficient capacity in its pipelines and processing facilities to handle the increased volumes of natural gas, and that interstate transport pipelines have “excess capacity at this point,” meaning the gas can be shipped to market.
“In short, we will be watching and evaluating The Beast and the others over the course of time, to determine our future program,” Alvillar said.
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