Old US oil fields brought back to life through fracking

Among vineyards and cow pastures in east Texas last month, roughnecks started to drill in an oilfield that is 25 years past its production peak.

Houston-based oil producer Wildhorse Resource Development Corp tasked the crew with breathing new life into the field by using technology developed for fracking shale rock.

In the limestone and clay Austin Chalk formation, which stretches across south Texas into central Louisiana, Wildhorse is among a growing group of U.S. producers opening a new front in the nation’s energy revolution.

“The application of new technology to older plays is a winning bet,” Drew Cozby, Wildhorse’s finance chief, said in an interview.

After shale producers pushed U.S. oil and gas output to all-time highs, some are now taking what they have learned to fields that until recently were considered played out.

If they are successful, the U.S. energy boom could find another gear as producers find profitable ways to extract the billions of barrels of oil remaining in older fields.

Production from the Austin Chalk jumped to 57,000 barrels per day (bpd) last year from 3,000 bpd five years ago and up 50 percent from the previous year, according to consultancy Wood Mackenzie, which expects rapid production gains to continue.

The number of drilling rigs in the Austin Chalk has doubled in the past six months to 14, according to data from energy researcher DrillingInfo.
There are several advantages to production from Austin Chalk.  The infrastructure is already in place with pipelines crisscrossing the area and they are in close proximity to the refineries in the Houston area.  The leases probably also do not carry the premium prices like those in the Permian Basin.


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