Shell to begin fracturing wells this month in Moffat County
Shell conducts winter drilling program to test safety practices
May 7, 2013
“We’re still testing multi-well pads and what that looks like. We think drilling multiple wells from one location is the way to go because it allows our operations to be centrally located, which also minimizes our disturbances.”
— Matt Holman, exploration project manager for Shell
Craig — Shell Oil officials said the past year has been characterized by experimentation, a trend that will continue when the energy company turns to hydraulic fracturing of at least two of its Moffat County wells.
Shell officials described their energy exploration efforts in Northwest Colorado during a community open house at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion in Craig on Monday. A second open house was scheduled for Tuesday in Hamilton, and two more are being held Wednesday in Steamboat Springs and Hayden.
During the past year, Shell officials said, they launched a winter drilling program for the first time since the company began exploring the Niobrara Shale formation for shale oil, and they also drilled multiple horizontal wells from a single pad. Up next is hydraulic fracturing. Shell has not fractured any of its wells in Moffat County to date.
"We've learned a lot about fracturing from some of our other projects and from the industry," said Matt Holman, Shell Oil's exploration project manager. "We have two dry holes, and we're going to try some well stimulation techniques to see if we can get them to produce."
Those two wells include one at Shell's Harper Hill pad near Hamilton and one at its Hart Gulch pad.
Fracturing operations are expected to begin in mid-May, said Mike Slavens, a completion engineer for Shell. The company plans to use a water-based frack consisting of 90 percent to 95 percent water, 4 percent to 9 percent sand, and 1 percent guar gel, Slavens said.
Guar gel is produced from the seeds of the guar bean plant and is used to add viscosity to the liquid. A video explaining the hydraulic fracturing process can be viewed here.
Although fracturing operations still are a few weeks away, Shell is nearing the end of its winter drilling program, Holman said. When the program ends in the next several weeks, Shell will have drilled 12 new wells, all during Northwest Colorado's tough winter months.
It was a deliberate test of Shell's safety practices, which have a reputation of being the most comprehensive in the industry, Holman said.
"It was a good test of our system and allowed us to put our practices to the test during the wintertime," Holman said. "I was pleased to see we were able to do it safely."
The winter drilling program also allowed Shell to continue to test its relatively new practice of drilling multiple horizontal wells from one pad. The 12 wells drilled during the winter program include three at the North Castor Gulch pad, four at Herring Draw and five at Deal Gulch.
"We're still testing multi-well pads and what that looks like," Holman said. "We think drilling multiple wells from one location is the way to go because it allows our operations to be centrally located, which also minimizes our disturbances."
Tuesday's open house at the Hamilton Community Center was expected to deal with Colorado Highway 317 roadwork. After almost a year of conversations between Shell and the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colo. 317 road construction is slated to begin next week. The public/private partnership is thought to be the first in Colorado, at least in regard to a state highway project.
"This is as new for CDOT as it is for us," said Kurt Meeks, construction supervisor for Shell. "It's going to be a brand-new highway when we're done."
The project encompasses 8 1/2 miles of highway slated for drainage improvements, a full-depth reclamation and 4 inches of asphalt.
The project will be broken up into two phases. Phase One encompasses the first six miles and is estimated to be completed by mid-July, Meeks said. Work on the last 2 1/2 miles will begin shortly after Phase One and will be completed in mid-August.
Shell's 2013 drilling schedule calls for 17 to 20 new wells in Moffat and Routt counties.
Joe Moylan can be reached at 970-875-1794 or jmoylan@CraigDailyPress.com