AMIDON — Hydraulic fracturing of the Tyler shale formation was expected to liven the sleepy plains of Slope County with oil activity.
But more than two years after the first well was spudded, three horizontal wells drilled by Marathon Oil Co. between September and December of 2013 have proven economically unfeasible and are now abandoned. A permit for a fourth well has been canceled.
The challenging geology of the play combined with the steep drop in oil prices kept Marathon from setting off another shale play in western North Dakota, said Timothy Nesheim, a subsurface geologist with the state Geological Survey.
Nesheim said the first two Tyler test wells “produced oil at rates too low to be economical at nearly any oil price.”
It’s a sharp change from September 2013, when Marathon estimated it could produce about 1.6 million barrels of oil equivalent from four test wells it had received permits to drill.
The wells produced 4,471 barrels of oil and 5.2 million cubic feet of natural gas, all of it coming from the Rundle Trust 29-21H and Powell 31-27TH wells, according to state Department of Mineral Resources Oil and Gas Division data.
Nesheim said the Rundle well — one of two drilled on a pad — had an initial 24-hour production rate of 88 barrels of oil per day and stabilized at just 7 bpd “for several months before it was plugged and abandoned.” By comparison, Bakken wells are producing an average of 117 barrels a day so far in 2015, according to Oil and Gas Division data.
Even at oil prices of $80 to $100 a barrel, the well’s production rate was about 5 to 10 percent of what it needed to be economical, he said.
“We had our hopes up. It looked good,” said Ken Urlacher, who farms and ranches on the Rundle land and takes care of the landowner’s cattle operation. “Obviously, if it didn’t look good, they wouldn’t have spent all the money in it and put the tanks on it.”