The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

August 9, 2013

Oil and gas industry heavy hitters politely ‘duke it out’

WOODWARD, Okla. — In a first-of-its-kind oilfield panel in Woodward, four oil and gas industry heavy hitters agreed on many aspects regarding how to best clear hurdles that lay ahead for the industry.

On differences, they found a way to “duke it out” politely.

Regardless of diverging opinions on some issues, all four panelists made one thing perfectly clear. Oil industry leaders must know and be able to discuss real data and science. They must be a visible resource in communities and end the “them against us” public perceptions that have sometimes dogged the industry.

The panel discussion was the brain child of organizers of the second annual Tri-State Oil and Gas Convention, which has hosted multiple events through the week.

Guests were Frank Q. Young, Unit Petroleum senior vice president; Robert Johnston, Apache vice president and general manager; Darren Sand; Devon Energy EHS policy and regulatory affairs manager; and Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy. State Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward, moderated the event.

The panel discussion was intended to establish a question-and-answer session that could bring to light issues facing the industry. The goal was to include diverse opinions about serious challenges to oil and gas seldom discussed at the grassroots level, said event coordinator Junior Long.

Panel guests took questions on issues ranging from how best to tackle water conservation, where tax incentives are best utilized for drilling success, issues related to the lesser prairie chicken and opinions regarding the 2011 Shale Reservoir Development Act.

Perhaps the most contentious of all the questions Marlatt posed involved the Shale Reservoir Development Act, signed by Gov. Mary Fallin in April 2011.

The 35-page bill updated Oklahoma oil and gas laws to include new technologies, such as horizontal and directional drilling. In addition, it set the Oklahoma Corporation Commission up as the agency with discretionary power and oversight in all cross unit drilling applications.

In short, the law allows longer laterals, which in some cases cross property section lines.

The law establishes guidance and rules for the protection of land and mineral owners in cases where that crossing of section lines also crosses ownership lines.

Discussion on the issue was:

• QUESTION — What are the options we have in dealing with longer laterals while continuing to develop production, and at the same time protecting the interest of land and mineral owners?

“At Unit, we have about 2,000 wells in Oklahoma and we have instances where fracking a horizontal has caused damage to a vertical nearby,” Young said. “There is also the consideration that the sand between the units isn’t homogenous and the difficulty associated with that in determining cost revenue split.

“However, even considering that, when you consider being able to go from 4,500 feet of lateral line to  9,000 or even 10,000, the savings of that is about $1.2 million for every two wells you have to consider the profits that can be generated. So I don’t see any issues big enough to stop it.”

Johnston said the Anadarko Basin is a perfect example of a drilling reservoir where the sand between units, which are the divided section lines, are not homogenous. That means the sand might produce a well on one section, but move over one section line and it changes drastically.

Johnston said he believes land and mineral owners could be at risk if corporations are allowed to assume that production in one section is equal to the production in another section, where one lateral might be drawing from both sections. He favors current legislation, which already is set up and has a good track record of protecting land and mineral owners.

“We already have all those problems,” Murphy said. “This is cross unit drilling, but it does not change the spacing. That is still something we need to resolve.”

Murphy said there are adjustments to be made on a case-by-case basis.

“You have got to rely on the regulatory body,” to determine what formations will work for this, she said.

At present, she said, since the signing of the Shale Reservoir Development Act, there have been about 101 applications for cross unit drilling. That is drilling a horizontal that has a lateral line that crosses a section line.

Murphy said new technology requires legislation that addresses the particulars of that enhanced ability to produce oil.

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