Newfield eyes Montana, Panhandle, other plays

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, July 23
-- Newfield Exploration Co., anchored in oil resource plays in Utah’s Monument Butte field and North Dakota’s Middle Bakken play, is assessing several other onshore US plays including some it isn’t ready to disclose, management said July 23.

The new plays include the Eagle Ford shale in South Texas, a multizone play in the southern Alberta basin in northern Montana, and a multizone play in the Pennsylvanian Marmaton formation on the company’s Texas Panhandle Granite Wash acreage.

The company has adopted a stance that will allow it to deploy capital to natural gas plays once margins return, but that could be beyond 2011. Even so, Newfield saw record production of 370 MMcfd in May from its Arkoma basin Woodford shale asset, where it holds more than 172,000 net acres, 155,000 acres of which are held by production.

Lee K. Boothby, chairman, president, and chief executive officer, said, “The prolonged weakness in natural gas prices is being further exacerbated by a continually rising rig count. Apparently the need to hold acreage by production supersedes economics, and gas supply remains stubbornly high today.”

Another factor that appears to be reining gas prices is the flood of non-US capital, a company official said.

Applying geological lessons learned the past few years, Newfield is assessing 230,000 net acres in northern Montana for potential in the Lodgepole, Middle Bakken, Sanish, and deeper Nisku formations. It is spudding its third well and expects to have drilled as many as eight vertical and horizontal wells by yearend.

The company is also assessing more than 300,000 net acres in the South Texas Maverick basin for Eagle Ford shale and Pearsall shale potential. Capital spending there is set at $100 million this year. The firm is running five operated rigs and will have drilled 15 wells in the balance of 2010.

Newfield expects an exclusive frac crew to arrive next week. It will begin by stimulating a 5,000-ft lateral in the Lower Eagle Ford oil window on northern acreage and a similar length lateral in the play’s wet gas window on southern acreage. It expects to understand the play’s potential late this year or in early 2011.

In the Texas Panhandle, Newfield is faced with evaluating as many as 30 horizons and intends to have tested 10 of them by yearend. It will operate four rigs and drill 26 wells, the longest with a nearly 6,300-ft leg, on 46,000 net acres in the year’s last 6 months. Half of the wells will go to the Marmaton formation, which has high liquids yields.

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