MDN Takes on Seeking Alpha Blogger over Marcellus Decline Rate

inside baseballThis is an “inside baseball” kind of article. For those with a casual interest in Marcellus Shale drilling, you’re free to move along. For the rest of us, this is an important issue–and that issue is how fast do Marcellus Shale wells (really any/all shale wells) peter out? After you drill a well, how long does it take before the gas quits flowing in economic volumes? It’s certainly important for drillers investing millions and billions–and for landowners who receive royalties. It’s also important for companies that invest big money in processing plants and pipelines (the “midstream” sector) because those fixed costs take time to recoup and you want to be sure the gas flows long enough to make a profit.

Increasingly the debate is turning to decline or “depletion” rates–how fast wells peter out. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) introduced a new drilling productivity report in October (a report we LOVE) that tackles the issue of decline rates. EIA lumps “old” wells together in a single number that they track–they call it “legacy production” or gas production from older wells. A freshly drilled well is considered “new” for precisely one month! After that, it’s production is lumped in with all of the other legacy or “older” wells. Sooner or later drillers will quit drilling new wells and all that will be left are legacy wells, so the sport in the investing industry is to guess when that will happen, and how productive those older wells will be. Enter an article on Seeking Alpha that does a deep dive into this issue by an admitted shale gas pessimist…

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