Last month we published an item noting that by the Texas Railroad Commission's count, Chesapeake Energy had edged past Devon Energy as the biggest gas producer in the Barnett Shale as of June, the latest figures at the time. But both companies quickly questioned the numbers and we qualified our report, with good reason as it turns out. Gene Powell, the data dean of the Barnett Shale and publisher of Powell Shale Digest, just ran the numbers for production through October 2012, the latest available from the Railroad Commission, and Devon is still No. 1, just ahead of Chesapeake. Both are well ahead of No. 3 XTO Energy.
According to Powell's numbers, Devon in October averaged 1.495 billion cubic feet a day. Chesapeake averaged 1.375 Bcf/d and XTO averaged 826 million cubic feet a day. The difference maker is wells in the Railroad Commission's pending file, which contains wells that are backlogged or contain incomplete information. Production from those wells doesn't show up on the Railroad Commission's Barnett Shale summary page. Based on our recent conversations with both producers, Devon last year drilled about 300 wells, vs. Chesapeake's fewer than 100, so perhaps that has something to do with it.
Powell notes that the Barnett Shale was still chugging along at 5.2 Bcf/d in October despite the sharp decline in drilling in the field. Some of that doubtless is because wells drilled in the past were finally connected to a sales line. For example, Chesapeake only last year laid an 8-inch line to its Westgate padsite on the southern edge of downtown Fort Worth, and that well was drilled in 2008 and completed in 2009. See our item here. But operators also say that despite their deserved reputation for sharp production declines in the early years, Barnett wells are proving to be pretty decent long-term producers. We've run some numbers ourselves using Powell's data and wells that are 10 years old still produce 11 percent of their peak initial production, while those 20-30 years old are still producing on average 10 percent of their peak. Of the 85 Barnett Shale wells 20 years old or older, all but four were still producing in June, the latest month we have. They averaged 99,000 cubic feet a day.
-- Jim Fuquay