Marcellus DUCs Lay Golden Eggs for Northeast Drillers

We’ve written a number of times about DUCs–otherwise known as drilled-but-uncompleted wells. When a shale driller drills a new well, it doesn’t always happen all in one go. You first drill the hole down, and then curve the drillbit and drill the horizontal portion–called the lateral. Then you pull the drill bit out of the ground and (at some point) the fracking process begins. Fracking doesn’t always happen right away. Sometimes wells are initially drilled but not fracked–essentially putting them in inventory to be fracked later. Those wells are DUCs. Since a lot of the cost to develop the well has already been spent in preparing the site and drilling the hole, to come along at a later time and frack is much “cheaper” if you (as a driller) want to bump up your production. Price of gas low right now? Drill the initial hole, mothball the project, and come back later when the price of gas goes up and finish it off and hook it up to production. The DUC inventory is a closely watched number. Analysts at Platts have been watching and have noticed something interesting. In most shale plays–particularly oil plays like the Permian in Texas–drillers are sinking initial holes as fast as they can and the DUC inventory numbers are going up up up. The Permian has seen 476 new DUCs added since January! But in the Marcellus, only 3 new DUCs have been added since last December. Which is “puzzling.” What does it mean?…

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