Horizontal Drilling Is On the Rise in Permian As Producers Chase Tight Oil

For the past several years, the Permian Basin remained an area where vertical drilling was still the principle method of extraction, even as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing become ubiquitous in the Eagle Ford Shale, the Bakken, and other shale plays in the United States. However, horizontal drilling is on the rise in the Permian Basin, as well, according to new data by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Horizontal drilling began to increase in the Permian Basin early in 2013, the EIA said. By the end of 2013, oil extraction in the Permian accounted for half of the total increase in horizontal drilling in the United States.

The rise in horizontal drilling in the Permian has seen that method of extraction overtake vertical drilling for some of the primary producers there. Apache Corp., perhaps the most active player in the Permian Basis, told Rigzone that as of early spring, it was operating 22 horizontal rigs and 16 vertical rigs. While a number of producers in the Permian are still relying more on vertical drilling, it shows that at least for some producers operating in some formations within the basin, horizontal drilling is becoming the favored method of extraction.

The Permian Basin contains a large number of stacked layers of tight oil and low permeability formations that are well-suited for horizontal drilling. While there is a rise in the amount of horizontal drilling in the Permian, it has so far been confined primarily to a five-county area – Reeves County, Texas; Ward County, Texas; Martin County, Texas; Midland County, Texas; and Eddy County, New Mexico, the EIA said. Nearly 4 out of every 5 new horizontal wells in the Permian took place within these five counties, and were contained to the Spraberry, Wolfcamp and Bone Spring formations.


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