Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Paradox Basin: MDU Teaser/Cryptic Comment; Now Million-Plus EURs

Updates

June 29, 2016: BLM to okay 6,000 new Newfield wells (MDU no longer involved, after selling Fidelity.

December 17, 2015: random update on the Moab/Paradox Basin, from MDU perspective.

November 1, 2014: random update on the Moab/Paradox Basin:
An interesting thing happened after Fidelity Exploration and Production Co. started drilling near the entrance to Dead Horse Point State Park.
Cane Creek Well 12-1 let loose.
Without the aid of pumps or fracking, the oil just flooded out — more than 600,000 barrels in its first year, making it the nation’s most productive on-shore well in 2012.
The hydrocarbon bounty, however, includes unexpectedly large amounts of methane and other components of natural gas that Fidelity has to burn off because there is no way to get those fuels to market.
To solve its delivery problem, the company proposes an intensive network of pipelines that is fueling a backlash among red-rock recreationists and preservationists alike.
My understanding was that when this well hit in 2012, it was the largest onshore well in 2012 in the lower 48. In February, 2014, it was still flowing without a pump; I don't know if it still is.


April 13, 2014: Million-plus EURS in the Paradox Basin for MDU, far exceeding Fidelity EURs in the Bakken.
 
Original Post
 
It's possible I missed it or did not understand the transcription, but there seemed to be a teaser /cryptic comment made by MDU without expanding on it. I was surprised that it was not followed in the Q&A unless the analysts are all aware of this particular project. This from the transcript:
"...quality insight electrical work...where we've been engaged on a substantial project. Further development in the region by our major tech company should provide opportunities going forward from both our materials and our service business." 
But the particular project was not mentioned, unless I missed it. I am open to suggestions. [May 2, 2013: in their 1Q13 earnings conference call, MDU said:
Included in the forecast is 86 million for the 88-megawatt simple cycle natural gas turbine to be located adjacent at our Heskett Generating Station here in Mandan, North Dakota ...
I wonder if that might not be the answer to the question.]

So, this is how I see MDU: solid, possibly turning the corner but will depend on economy outside the Bakken. The Bakken is driving earnings now. The usual comments about requests for rate increases for their regulated utilities. The natural gas segment is a drag on earnings -- as it is for everyone in the natural gas business. But then this: the Paradox Basin could be a game changer for MDU. From the transcript:
Now moving on to the Paradox basin, to put that simply, the Paradox basin is a potential game changer for us. As we mentioned before, we kick things off in this play with a great well that was a Cane Creek unit number 26-2H well. Then our next two wells were completed open hole and did not turn out so well, so we’ve returned to [cast] hole completions. We recently put the Cane Creek unit 12-1H well on production and it has been consistently producing approximately 1,500 barrels of oil a day over the past three weeks. It has a flowing pressure above 2,800 PSI. We have 50 to 75 future locations with gross EURs estimated up to 1 million barrels and perhaps beyond.
For newbies: in the Bakken, EURs are in the 500K - 700K range; in the sweet spots, EURs up to 900,000 are being estimated. Rarely folks talk about 1 million bbl-EURs in the best Bakken.

The Paradox Basin is centered at Four Corners, USA (Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah). From various USGS PDF files the unconventional shale sounds a lot like the Bakken:
Reservoirs: The play depends on extensive fracturing in the organic-rich dolomitic shale and mudstone in the interbeds between evaporites of the Pennsylvanian Paradox Formation or carbonate and clastic rocks of the related cycles on the shelf of the Paradox evaporite basin. These shales and mudstones may be as thick as 130 ft but are more commonly less than 20 ft thick
Source rocks: These organic-rich black dolomitic shales and mudstones are the source rocks for most, if not all, of the oil and gas in the Paradox Basin. Total organic carbon commonly ranges from 1 to 5 percent but may be as high as 20 percent. Oil produced by these source rocks typically has 40û–43û API gravity and low sulfur content.
Exploration status and resource potential: Until recently, the only significant production from this play was from the Cane Creek Shale in the Lone Canyon field discovered in 1962. Recently, nearby Bartlett Flat field has been developed by directional drilling in the Cane Creek Shale at a depth of approximately 9,000 ft. The Cane Creek, Chimney Rock, Gothic, and Hovenweep Shales have the most potential due to both organic content and thickness.
The USGS summary: The USGS assessed undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in nine assessment units in the Paradox Basin. Four conventional AUs were assessed to contain means of 89 million barrels of oil (MMBO), 833 billion cubic feet of gas (BCFG), and 18 million barrels of natural gas liquids (MMBNGL). Four unconventional AUs were assessed to con- tain means of 471 MMBO, 11,868 BCFG, and 472 MMBNGL. The Kaiparowits Plateau Coalbed Gas AU was assessed to contain a mean of 450 BCFG. The assessment was based on 2011 IHS well and production data.

For newbies: compare the USGS assessment of the Paradox Basin (above) with the USGS assessment of the Bakken back in 2008:
The USGS estimated 3.65 billion barrels of recoverable oil in five "assessment units" in the Montana and North Dakota Bakken Pool.
Here are the assessment units (AU), amount of estimated recoverable oil, and percent (in terms of acreage) in Montana/North Dakota:

  • Northwest Expulsion Threshold AU, 868 million barrels, 80/20 (MT/ND)
  • Eastern Expulsion Threshold AU, 973 million barrels, 100 (ND)
  • Nesson-Little Knife Structural AU, 909 million barrels, 100 (ND)
  • Elm Coulee-Billings Nose AU, 410 million barrels, 55/45 (MT/ND)
  • Central Basin-Poplar Dome AU, 485, 45/55 (MT/ND)