Oil and gas operators continually report that their newest wells are better than older wells.

Improving technologies, such as more intense completions and more precise directional drilling, push well results higher. Such a trend can be clearly seen in the Bakken, where operations have been ongoing since before the beginning of the U.S. unconventional boom.

Oil and gas well and field data pioneer BetaZi lists nearly 20,500 wells in North Dakota, with the first wells beginning production in 1951.

Meet the Best of the Best in the Bakken

All wells in North Dakota. Powered by BetaZi

Examining the “core of the core”

Using data from BetaZi, EnerCom has examined the best wells in the Bakken in the past six years. When the top ten wells of each year, from 2012 to 2017, are examined, the effects of improved techniques are clear.

EURs recovered by the best wells are steadily increasing, rising from less than 2 MMBOE in 2012 to over 4.5 MMBOE in the best well of 2017. A total of 15 different companies have been responsible for the best wells in the past six years.

Meet the Best of the Best in the Bakken

EUR and GOR of the best Bakken Wells. Powered by BetaZi

Meet the Best of the Best in the Bakken

The best of the Bakken. Powered by BetaZi

On an EUR basis, the best well drilled in 2012 was operated by BTA Oil Producers, located south of the heart of the Bakken in Stark County. However, this well is actually a conventional producer, and does not target the Bakken formation. It is expected to produce more than 19 MMcf in total, but less than 25 MBBL of oil.

Not counting this well, the best 2012 wells average 1.34 MMBOE in EUR, with the best well producing 1.68 MMBOE. Five of these wells were located in McKenzie County, but were otherwise scattered around the Bakken. Five operators, Continental, Whiting, EOG, HRC and Zavanna drilled the top wells in 2012.

Meet the Best of the Best in the Bakken

Best of 2012. Powered by BetaZi

EOG dominates in 2013

Operations in 2013 showed much more cohesion, with EOG dominating activity. The company was responsible for all of the top ten Bakken wells in 2013, with wells producing between 1.5 and 2.4 MMBOE. Because one company was responsible for all of the top 2013 wells, these wells are much more concentrated. Seven wells are located within seven miles of each other in Mountrail County, while the other three are in McKenzie County.

Meet the Best of the Best in the Bakken

Best of 2013. Powered by BetaZi

Operations spread out in 2014

EOG’s hold on the Bakken loosened in 2014, when six different companies accounted for the top ten wells. Continental, Enerplus, QEP, EOG, Whiting Petroleum and Burlington each drilled premier wells in 2014.

Most activity was focused in the northeast corner of McKenzie County, but EOG’s well was located 20 miles away in Mountrail County and QEP’s was directly on the border of Dunn and McKenzie Counties. These wells demonstrated moderate improvement over 2013, ranging from 1.75 to 2.7 MMBOE.

Meet the Best of the Best in the Bakken

Best of 2014. Powered by BetaZi

2015 sees producers respond to lower prices

The oil price downturn forced companies to adapt, and well results significantly improved in 2015. The best well drilled that year is projected to produce a total of nearly 3.45 MBBOE, significantly more than previous efforts yielded. In addition, several new companies drilled the best wells of 2015. WPX, Petro-Hunt, SHD Oil & Gas and Statoil each produced high-producing wells. Operations once again were mostly concentrated in northeast McKenzie County, though for the first time a high-producing well was located in McLean County.

Meet the Best of the Best in the Bakken

Best of 2015. Powered by BetaZi

Lower for longer forces coreing up in 2016

Companies continued to improve in 2016, as “lower for longer” oil prices continued to bite.

Three 2016 wells are projected to outperform the best 2015 Bakken well, and the best 2016 well will exceed 4.2 MMBOE. Operations moved away from previous core areas in 2016, with wells located to the south and west of the standard northeast corner of McKenzie County.

Meet the Best of the Best in the Bakken

Best of 2016. Powered by BetaZi

2017 wells set new EUR records

Wells in 2017 have continued the trend of improving results, with this year’s wells already exceeding those of 2016. The best well drilled so far in 2017 is predicted to produce over 4.5 MMBOE, the best of any unconventional well in the Bakken so far. For reference, this is nearly three times the production of the best unconventional well in 2012, when 1.68 MMBOE was a record-setting result. Operations are starting to be dominated by one company again, with Continental drilling half of the top ten 2017 wells. Other leading wells have been drilled by Enerplus, Hess and Kraken Operating.

Meet the Best of the Best in the Bakken

Best of 2017. Powered by BetaZi

Significant improvements in the last six years

Overall, improvements over time are obvious, with current wells far surpassing those of only a few years ago. Continued improvements in completions techniques have allowed companies to drill increasingly effective wells, which has helped companies better endure the current price downturn.