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New drilling concept starts in McKenzie County

Posted 9/16/09 (Wed)

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

Oil exploration is an ever-changing industry and one company has decided to break out its newest technology right here in McKenzie County.
Continental Resources, an Oklahoma-based company has been busy trying to prove that the Three Forks Sanish Formation is separate from the Bakken Formation, and while it is still trying to prove this theory, the company hopes that a new drilling concept will help them and other companies save money while making their ecological footprint much smaller.
“When the company decided to begin development in the Bakken and Three Forks formations, we challenged our Williston team to come up with a drilling concept that would cut costs and get work done more efficiently,” says Jeff Hume, Continental Resources  chief operating officer. “They came up with the Eco-Pad Concept which not only allows the company to cut costs and work more efficiently, it also allows us to have less impact on the land and retrieve more oil.”
The Eco-Pad Concept allows four wells to be drilled on one pad or location. Prior to this concept, Continental Resources needed one pad for each well it planned to drill.
“The concept works by setting the rig up to drill the first hole into the Bakken Formation. Once that hole is done the rig scoots 30 – 40 feet and drills a Three Forks well,” says Hume. “The rig scoots three times to make two wells into the Bakken and two into the Three Forks Formation.”
Normally, for a company to drill four wells, it would need four pads, each one about five acres in size. The company would drill one hole and then rig down and drive the rig to another location, a process that takes around five days, and then rig up and start the second hole. The Eco-Pad Concept allows the rig to move from one hole to the next in approximately eight hours.
“When we use the Eco-Pad Concept, the pad is seven to eight acres, but we only need one instead of four,” says Hume. “That is where the ecological footprint gets smaller. The company saves money because it doesn’t have to move the rig between each hole and it only has to create one pad. That’s where the name Eco-Pad came from, the economical and ecological savings.”
According to Hume, the drilling technique is basically the same as directional drilling; the big difference is that only one pad is needed to drill four wells.
The concept has been used in other states for gas wells, but Continental Resources isn’t aware of any other companies using this concept in North Dakota.
 “We decided to drill the first wells in McKenzie County because the opportunity presented itself,” says Hume. ‘The Bakken and Three Forks wells we’ve drilled there have been successful and the topography was right.”
The Eco-Pad Concept is something that can’t be used everywhere because of topography. But Hume says the company plans to use it wherever it can to help maximize the wells.
“In addition to the advantages of the Eco-Pad Concept, the North Dakota Industrial Commission has waived the 500-foot setback rule for our eight Eco-Pad permits,” adds Hume. “This will allow us to drill into an additional 500 feet of rock for each well allowing us to get the most out of the location.”
The Eco–Pad Concept comes at a time when economical and ecological savings are on the minds of many drilling companies.
 “I know of at least two other companies who have discussed plans to use a similar concept,” says Lynn Helms, North Dakota Industrial Commission director.  “I think this new concept has great potential to reduce costs and surface impacts while recovering more oil and getting the Bakken and the Three Forks formations developed more quickly.”
This new concept doesn’t come without a little extra work for the company. Before they can begin, a public hearing needs to be held and a permit issued for each pad.
Continental Resources plans to begin drilling its first Eco-Pad well between Keene and New Town sometime in the fourth quarter, with eight more permits for Eco-Pad sites planned for next year.