Utica Super Lateral Wells Now Catching on in Other Plays

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What is a “super lateral” as opposed to a “long lateral” when it comes to shale drilling? And who is drilling these really long wells? That’s the topic of a recent post by energy expert Richard Zeits on the Seeking Alpha investors website. We’ll give you our definition. But first, some brief background. When you read about a “lateral” in shale wells, it refers to the part of the well that is horizontal. When drilling a new well, you first (of course) drill vertically–more or less straight up and down. But at a certain depth, when you hit the shale layer you are targeting, you gradually turn the hole so that it becomes horizontal, running through the rock layer (see the illustration). The horizontal part is the lateral. In the early days of Marcellus (and Utica) shale wells, laterals were perhaps a maximum of 2,000 feet in length. Today? The longest on-shore lateral in the world (all three of them, actually) are located in Ohio–drilled by Eclipse Resources. Eclipse’s wells–first the Purple Hayes, then the Great Scott and most recently the Outlaw–are considered “super laterals” because they exceed 15,000 feet. In the case of the Outlaw C 11H well in Guernsey County, OH, the lateral is a staggering 19,500 feet long (see Eclipse Breaks Record Again – New Longest Shale Well in World!). If we use the metric that a “super lateral” is 15,000 feet or longer, there is one Marcellus well that qualifies (see Range Resources Drills Longest Marcellus Well Ever – in Washington Co.). While Mr. Zeits doesn’t use the exact metric of 15,000 feet, he does talk about super laterals, and predicts they will soon become common. He notes some new news for us: Chesapeake Energy has drilled an Eagle Ford oil well with a 17,000 foot lateral. Zeits says we should expect to see this in other plays too. We found his musings over super laterals, and the economics behind them, interesting…

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