Technical Paper: Production Performance of Infill Horizontal Wells vs. Pre-Existing Wells in the Major US Unconventional Basins

Society: SPE
Paper Number: 189875
Presentation Date: 2018
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In most US unconventional basins, operators start development by drilling the minimum number of wells needed to hold their acreage. These initial wells are sometimes called "parent" wells. Operators then start drilling their infill development wells, which many operators are currently in the process of doing across various unconventional basins. Infill performance can be highly variable, with operators making great efforts to ensure infill wells perform comparable to or better than existing parent wells. This challenge will become more magnified in the unconventional industry as infill development surpasses parent well drilling. To add more uncertainty, limited research exists showing basin-wide trends as to how infill wells can be expected to perform on average in comparison to their parent well counterparts. We studied infill well performance in numerous US basins, with the objectives of understanding performance trends and their causes, along with providing recommendations for maximizing infill well potential.

We evaluated the performance of newly drilled infill wells compared to their parent wells, which had been produced for some time. Using a spatial, statistical approach with key production indicators, we identified key trends across various basins where the infill wells produced at different production rates compared to their parent wells. Overall, there is about a 50% chance that a child well will outperform a parent well; However, normalizing production to total proppant pumped and lateral length suggests that larger volumes with longer laterals in infill wells may be needed to achieve similar rates to the parent wells.

Underperformance of infill wells may likely be because of existing depletion and inter-well production competition with both parent and other infill wells. Additionally, in areas where significant depletion is expected, predicting the performance of new infill wells can be very difficult.

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