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Eagle Ford still going strong as rigs continue to migrate to liquids-rich shales

Posted on 22 February 2011

H&P currently provides 110 AC drive land rigs onshore the US, including this FlexRig3. The company says it does not have any rigs in North America without top drives anymore.

H&P currently provides 110 AC drive land rigs onshore the US, including this FlexRig3. The company says it does not have any rigs in North America without top drives anymore.

Speaking at the IADC Oil and Gas Shale Drilling Technology Workshop held in Houston on 27 January, Brian Tucker, Helmerich & Payne South Texas operations manager, described his company’s shift into the liquids-rich shale plays, as well as the rig evolution being driven by shale drilling. “Today we have 194 land rigs working in the US, and six years ago, we had only 80,” Mr Tucker said. The demand for AC rigs has also significantly grown on US land; H&P now provides 110 AC drive land rigs onshore US.

Today, 140 of H&P’s 198 rigs are drilling in US shale plays. “Within six years we went from 1% to 75% of our rig fleet drilling in shale plays,” Mr Tucker said. “During the first quarter of 2010, 63% of our rigs were drilling in gas shale. Today, 55% of our rigs have moved into liquid-rich shale plays. I think this is going to continue at least for the short term.”

“The Eagle Ford Shale is the largest we’re involved in,” he said. “It’s been a fast migration from gas into liquid-rich plays.”

He added: “We brought in our first rig to the Eagle Ford Shale in 2009 and have seen a significant increase in rigs. We are currently sitting at 35 rigs in the Eagle Ford and expect to go over 40 in the next six months.”

In the Permian Basin, H&P has also doubled its rig count in the last 18 months.

On the other hand, the Haynesville Shale peaked at 38 rigs for the company and is now down to 23 rigs; it will likely continue to go down, Mr Tucker said. “I think we will also see the Bakken and Woodford Shales surpassing the Haynesville in terms of rigs,” he said. The Barnett also peaked in 2008 at 31 rigs and is currently at 13 rigs, while the Piceance has lost more than 10 rigs in two years.

“We’re currently building rigs,” he continued. “In our case, that’s two to three a month.” The company announced in late January that it is building eight additional FlexRigs for multi-year term contracts in the US. Since March 2010, the company has announced contracts for the construction of 31 new build FlexRigs, 17 of which have been completed. The remaining 14 rigs are expected to be delivered during calendar 2011.

Regarding the evolution of rigs for shale drilling, Mr Tucker said H&P does not have any rigs in North America without top drives anymore, and he believes this trend will continue. The company has also been building rigs to fit operators’ well programs. Rigs that can control flat zones, such as time from setting surface casing to nipple up testing, are gaining operator interest, and ease of rig moves has become their biggest criteria for rig selection. He also notes that AC drive rigs using a computerized electronic driller has leveled the playing field between experienced and less experienced drillers. There have been increases in ROP with these rigs, he said. Other technologies helping to enhance drilling in the shale plays include rotary steerable systems, enhanced automated driller control systems and automated catwalks.

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