02/28/2012 Star Telegram

Barnett gas production hit record high in November

By Jack Z. Smith
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Despite persistently low natural gas prices and a decline in drilling, production in North Texas' Barnett Shale hit a record high in November, averaging more than 6 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, the Powell Shale Digest reported Monday.

The digest's publisher, Gene Powell, said the record was achieved because operators brought more wells on line and completed them with longer horizontal "lateral" lines and more hydraulic-fracturing stages that boost the gas released from dense underground rock.

The "technology is improved in the Barnett Shale," and the result is rising production, Powell said in an interview. He added that energy companies are completing some previously drilled Barnett wells to retain leases.

The digest said production from the Barnett, which underlies more than 20 North Texas counties, averaged nearly 6.05 billion cubic feet of gas daily in November, plus an average of 26,355 barrels of oil and condensate daily.

The production came from 14,633 wells, and the figures are based on the latest Texas Railroad Commission data, the digest said.

"It's not true that the Barnett Shale is going down the tubes," Powell said regarding the decline in drilling, which is now less than one-third its peak in 2008, when gas prices were much higher.

The Fort Worth-based digest, an authoritative source on U.S. shale-gas fields, also said Monday that total Barnett production since the field's inception, has reached another milestone by exceeding 11 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Mark Caffey, CEO of Caffey Group, a Fort Worth-based leasing firm, said low gas prices have made it impractical for some operators to drill new Barnett wells, but it still might make sense for them to complete previously drilled wells and bring them on line. Hydraulic fracturing is part of the completion process after a well is drilled.

Jack Z. Smith,

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Energy Education

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