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Smaller Companies Using Marcellus Technology In Shallow Well Drilling

Utilizing technologies that created the Marcellus Shale boom in Western Pennsylvania, smaller operators in the region are beginning to rework their shallow wells, as well as drill new ones, to explore and produce shallower formations. Rather than drilling to depths up to or greater than one mile to reach the oil and gas in the unconventional shale plays like the Marcellus and the Utica Shale, some companies are stopping at shallower depths, and continuing to produce the once robust conventional sandstones, such as the Elk Sandstone and the Upper Devonian Shale.

While the production isn’t as great as the more compact and larger Marcellus Shale, the cost to drill (or rework) a shallow well is markedly cheaper, potentially coming in at under $1 million (versus the nearly $10 million it costs to drill a horizontal Marcellus well). Similarly, the shallow wells, thanks in part to the rock into which the wells are drilled being more porous, require far less fluids – shallow wells are using, on average, less than 3% of the frac fluid during the drilling process.

The shallow formations, once the only known formations for area drillers, are seeing a renewed interest thanks in part to the technology and processes that allowed larger companies to drill much deeper into the Marcellus Shale. Early results on the shallow wells is difficult to analyze, as reporting requirements for conventional wells only compel companies to release production data once per year.