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El Paso plans one-rig Wolfcamp shale oil program into 2011

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Nov. 10 -- El Paso Corp. plans to spud a well during November in its Wolfcamp shale oil acreage in West Texas as part of a one-rig program focused on finding the optimal lateral length and completion method before the company ramps up Wolfcamp drilling activity during 2011.

Speaking during a Nov. 3 third-quarter earnings conference call, El Paso executives said they expect Wolfcamp will become an oil-focused core area. El Paso acquired University of Texas leases on 135,000 net acres in Reagan, Crockett, Upton, and Irion counties (OGJ Online, Sept. 23, 2010).

While considering its bid on the acreage, El Paso drilled a pilot well in Crockett County, a spokesman said. In addition, El Paso studied thousands of well logs across a 13-county area.

The combination of large contiguous blocks and a single royalty owner in West Texas provides “flexibility in the length of the lateral,” said Brent Smolik, president of El Paso E&P Co. LP. The acreage where El Paso has identified 600 potential horizontal well sites is surrounded by 300 vertical wells.

The area already is dense with vertical well production and associated infrastructure, Smolik said. Early Wolfcamp horizontal results are encouraging, he said.

Smolik said it’s too early to determine lateral length or how many frac stages might be needed for a typical well in the well. A slide in the company’s Wolfcamp presentation said El Paso is assuming 4,000-6,000 ft laterals and 12-20 frac stages/well. The company initially plans 160-acre well spacing.

“We’re dealing with a known reservoir, not just a known source rock, Smolik said of the Wolfcamp play, where El Paso expects to directly apply shale expertise that it learned in the Eagle Ford and Haynesville plays.

The company expects to top Wolfcamp at 5,800-7,500 ft and encounter 400-850 ft of net thickness.

El Paso said its Wolfcamp acreage has total organic carbon of 4-15% compared with its Eagle Ford TOC of 2-6%. El Paso’s Wolfcamp acreage has 7-15% porosity compared with its Eagle Ford’s 6-14% porosity. Wolfcamp has 24% clay compared with 30-40% clay in the Bakken, Haynesville, and Marcellus, the company said.

In its Eagle Ford shale oil and gas play in South Texas, El Paso has nine wells producing and six wells awaiting completion. It plans to operate three to six Eagle Ford rigs during 2011, Smolik said. In the Haynesville shale play, El Paso has net production of 170 MMcfd, he said.

Contact Paula Dittrick at

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