Thinking inside the box

Encana’s innovative cube development establishes the company as a stacked pay leader.

Layer upon layer of hydrocarbon-rich rock lies beneath the surface throughout the Permian, which is why it is one of the busiest and most valuable oil plays in the world. These layers are known in the industry as stacked pay, distinct underground areas stacked on top of one another, each potentially holding large amounts of barrels of oil equivalent (BOEs).

Using an approach it has called “the cube,” Encana is driving significant value from this stacked pay resource. The cube development approach utilizes large multi-well pads, advanced completion designs and detailed planning.

"Our cube development model is delivering lower development costs and improving the recovery from the reservoir,” said Doug Suttles, Encana President & CEO. “We believe this approach will become the industry standard for stacked pay development.”

The cube offers benefits above and below ground. Above ground, it maximizes efficiency and utilization of equipment, crews and infrastructure. Simultaneous use of multiple drilling rigs reduces cycle time and allows for sharing of services. As efficiencies are identified, they’re quickly applied to subsequent wells drilled on the same pad. This approach is delivering some of the lowest drilling costs in the industry.

During completions, the scale effect is even more impactful. The improved horsepower utilization and reduced cycle times lower capital costs. Stockpiling resources on location drops costs and increases reliability. Integrated infrastructure saves money by recycling water and reducing wellsite facilities and pipeline costs.

In stacked reservoirs, there is a clear benefit to drilling and completing the entire cube at once. “Historically, our industry was slow to identify the optimal well spacing for unconventional plays,” said Mike McAllister, Encana’s Chief Operating Officer. “This has led to large infill drilling programs years later to try and boost recovery factors.”

In some cases, the result is a parent-child relationship between old and new producing wells, where the new child wells are simply not as productive. Using the cube approach, all wells are parent wells. “We minimize the risk of communication and enhance productivity by creating a more complex fracture network,” added McAllister.

Encana used its full-scale cube development model on the Abbie Laine pad in the Permian and the results demonstrate the benefits of developing the whole stack at once. As reported in the first quarter, the company targeted five different stacked pay zones from 12 wells, which delivered average 30-day initial production rates of over 1,000 BOE/d, including over 800 bbls/d of oil. Peak daily production from the 12-well pad was approximately 14,000 BOE/d, including 11,000 bbls/d of oil.

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