Cracking the Cline: A New Shale Play Develops in the Permian Basin
- Trent Jacobs (JPT Technology Writer)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- November 2013
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 70 - 77
- 2013. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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Early in its development, the Cline shale was hyped as the next Eagle Ford or Bakken with more oil and gas than they have combined.
The lofty projections of the Cline shale’s potential, located in west Texas on the eastern side of the Permian Basin, were extrapolated from information presented by Devon Energy to financial analysts in April 2012.
At that time, the company’s data regarding the emerging play suggested the possibility that as much as 3.6 billion BOE lie trapped within Devon’s 500,000 acres of Cline shale. Analysts looking for North America’s next major unconventional resource then calculated that the entire formation, roughly 140 miles long and 70 miles wide, held between 30 and 35 billion BOE, which would make it one of the largest discoveries in the world.
That hasty estimate did not take into account how much of the potentially mammoth resource could be economically recoverable. Devon said it is not far enough along in its Cline shale operations to share information.
Other operators in the Cline have encountered issues that make producing from the formation a challenge, such as heavy-clay content, and as a result, the production quality is not consistent across the play.
“There was a lot of optimism up front,” said Benjamin Shattuck, an upstream analyst at Wood Mackenzie in Houston. He said that the variability in initial production rates among the handful of operators drilling horizontal wells in the Cline has revealed the best acreage to be in the west Texas counties of Glasscock and along the western side of Sterling. “That doesn’t mean that there have not been decent results outside of that area,” Shattuck said, “but I think some of the excitement has been tempered a little bit.”
Tempered perhaps, but not all the way gone. The operators with early success in the Cline and even those facing setbacks are moving forward on their investments in drilling the shale and building up the infrastructure needed to support field development for years to come (Table 1). What remains to be determined is whether the Cline will be a uniform and commercially competitive formation across the vast area that it encompasses, or be limited to small pockets in which the shale is conducive to production.
Three-Finger Black Shale
Before it came to be known as the Cline, the nickname for the formation was the “Three-Finger Black Shale” because of its rich darkness seen in core samples, and the distinctive resistivity peaks identifying its location during vertical well logging (Fig. 1). Operators have drilled more than 1,500 vertical wells through the formation in the past several years. The vertical drilling programs provided oil companies with the geological and petrophysical data that they are using today to understand and successfully deplete the formation of hydrocarbons by drilling into it horizontally.
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