URTec gets off to rousing start in Denver
BY KURT ABRAHAM, EXECUTIVE EDITOR
DENVER -- The upstream industry’s newest event, a three-society joint effort called Unconventional Resources Technology Conference, or “URTec,” hit the ground running yesterday, boosted by good registration numbers and an excellent opening plenary session. SPE, AAPG and SEG have teamed up to produce this Denver-hosted first installment in what will be an annual event, focused on “the latest technology applied within an asset team environment.” The conference is paired with an exhibition featuring 160-plus companies.
Although exact figures are not available yet, conference organizers spoke of first-day registration figures of 4,000 and 4,500, exceeding their expectations. Perhaps some of the attendee enthusiasm can be traced to the opening-day plenary session, entitled “Unconventional Resources: Breakthrough Integration Changes Everything,” and featuring Scott Sheffield, CEO, Pioneer Natural Resources; M. W. Scoggins, President, Colorado School of Mines (CSM); Vello Kuuskraa, Chairman and President, Advanced Resources International (ARI); and Dave Hager, COO, Devon Energy Corp. The session description said that the speakers would “explore the foundational scientific, technical and business practices that, when leveraged by innovative integration in a multidisciplinary environment, differentially ‘moves the needle’ across the value chain of unconventional resource identification, assessment and monetization”—and the panel did not disappoint its audience.
Sheffield woke up any attendees still dozing from the 8:30 start time, when he said that the Spraberry Wolfcamp play in the Permian basin of West Texas may become the world’s largest oil and gas discovery. One might be tempted to say that Sheffield is prejudiced in favor of the play, considering that Pioneer is the largest acreage holder in the area, controlling 900,000 gross acres. Nevertheless, Sheffield rattled off a list of numbers to justify his contention and explain why his company will test a dozen-plus zones over the next three years. He said that the Wolfcamp is already estimated to hold 50 Bboe of recoverable reserves, which theoretically makes it larger than the Eagle Ford and Bakken shales in South Texas and North Dakota, respectively. And Sheffield added that this figure is based only on layers in the play explored to date, with more reserves waiting to be found.
Considering that some of the numbers have yet to be verified through extensive drilling, he may have stretched the envelope of credibility a bit, when he stated that Wolfcamp’s recoverable reserves are second only to Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar field. The ever-optimistic Sheffield said that he thinks Wolfcamp could total 100 Bboe eventually. In a recent investor presentation, Pioneer noted that it is operating 27 rigs in the Spraberry Wolfcamp play, with 12 drilling horizontal wells and 15 spudding vertical holes. In that presentation, the firm claimed proved Spraberry reserves of 627 MMboe and additional Spraberry Wolfcamp potential reserves of 7.3 Bboe.
Meanwhile, CSM’s Scoggins spoke on the need to bridge the gap between academia and industry, and how his school is taking a leading role. Last year, CSM entered into a joint training initiative with Penn State University and The University of Texas at Austin, to support the rapidly growing shale sector. The training programs created under the initiative are led by faculty at each institution. They are designed to ensure that regulators and policymakers have access to the latest technology and operational expertise geared to shale development. ExxonMobil and GE contributed $1 million, each, to this initiative.
ARI’s Kuuskraa spoke about “What we know, think we know and know we don’t know” about unconventional resources. His firm has been busy, having just finished a joint project with the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) called the World Shale Gas and Shale Oil Resource Assessment. In this study, released in June 2013, ARI and EIA focused on shale resources outside the U.S., although in the executive summary, ARI also provided its own internal U.S. estimates. Accordingly, the study determined that in-place shale gas resources in 41 countries outside the U.S. total 31,138 Tcf. Of that amount, 6,634 Tcf are considered technically recoverable. When U.S. resources are added, the numbers increase to 35,782 Tcf and 7,795 Tcf, respectively. As for shale oil, the study identified risked shale oil in-place, totaling 5,799 Bbbl, of which 286.9 Bbbl are technically recoverable. Adding the U.S. numbers increases the totals to 6,753 Bbbl and 335 Bbbl, respectively.
Rounding out the session, Devon’s Hager spoke about “Lessons learned in value creation through integration.” He described how his firm and others are improving the productivity of shale resource development by utilizing interdisciplinary studies that incorporate traditional and advanced geophysical data and methods with enhanced geological understanding and engineering measurements. Devon is certainly putting its own lessons learned to good use in the Permian basin, where the firm is exploiting several plays. Devon this year is devoting roughly $1.5 billion in capital in the area, to operate 29 rigs and drill more than 300 wells.