EIA: Low-permeability formations driving Permian oil production surge

Crude oil production in the Permian basin has increased to 1.35 million b/d in 2013 from 850,000 b/d in 2007. Since March 2013, the Permian basin has become the largest crude oil producing region in the US, with production exceeding that from the federal offshore Gulf of Mexico region. In 2013, the Permian basin’s production accounted for 18% of total US crude oil production, said the US Energy Information Administration.

“Although oil production has previously come from the more permeable portions of the Permian formations, the application of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has opened up large and less-permeable portions of these formations to commercial production,” EIA said.

According to data from EIA, the recent increase in Permian crude oil production is largely concentrated in six low-permeability formations, including the Spraberry, Wolfcamp, Bone Spring, Glorieta, Yeso, and Delaware formations.

“Production from these formations has helped drive the increase in Permian oil production—particularly since 2009—despite declining production from legacy wells,” EIA said, adding that “almost three quarters of the increase in Permian crude oil production came from the Spraberry, Wolfcamp, and Bone Spring formations.”

Counties in Spraberry, Wolfcamp, and Bone Spring formations have driven the increase in the Permian basin’s horizontal, oil-directed rig activity in recent months. Production from these three formations collectively increased from about 140,000 b/d in 2007 to an estimated 600,000 b/d in 2013, increasing their share of total Permian oil production to 44% from 16%. These three formations have initial well production rates comparable to those found in the Bakken and Eagle Ford shale formations.

Three other formations—the Delaware and the adjacent Glorieta and Yeso—also increased production during 2007-13, but to a lesser extent. Production from these three formations rose to an estimated 112,000 b/d in 2013 from 61,000 b/d in 2007.

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