Southwestern Energy to Again Test Brown Dense

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013 12:00 am  

The Lower Smackover Brown Dense formation is in southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana. This map from Southwestern Energy Production Co. of Houston shows the locations of its wells. (Photo by Southwestern Energy Production Co.)

Unsuccessful attempts to strike oil in the Brown Dense formation in Arkansas aren’t stopping Southwestern Energy Production Co. of Houston from trying again.

On Aug. 1, Southwestern Energy received approval from the Arkansas Oil & Gas Commission to form an exploratory drilling unit to drill for oil on about 640 acres in Columbia County.

It is unclear when Southwestern will start drilling, though. Christina Fowler, a spokeswoman for Southwestern Energy, said in an email to Arkansas Business that the company was “unable to participate in your requested interview.”

Robert Reynolds, president of Shuler Drilling Co. of El Dorado, said he believes that Southwestern will start drilling by the end of the year.

“They’ve gone to that trouble of getting on the books with the Oil & Gas Commission,” said Reynolds, who has been involved in the oil and gas industry in south Arkansas for about 40 years.

While there is oil in the Brown Dense, “what we don’t know is if it can be removed economically,” Reynolds said.

The Lower Smackover Brown Dense formation covers southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana. The formation ranges in depths from 8,000 to 11,000 feet, according to Southwestern Energy’s website.

Reynolds estimated that drilling a well in the Brown Dense Play costs about $20 million. And to make the project a success, Southwestern would need to produce “several hundred [barrels of oil] a day on a sustained production basis,” Reynolds said. A barrel is the international standard for oil and equals 42 gallons of crude oil.

While no company has seen success on the Arkansas side of the Brown Dense, Southwestern has reported progress on wells in Louisiana.

“We remain very encouraged after watching flattening production profiles” from two of Southwestern’s wells in Louisiana, Bill Way, Southwestern Energy’s chief operating officer, said in an Aug. 2 conference call. A transcript of the call was published on the company’s website. “We’ve seen further encouragement in the completion of our eighth well, the Sharp vertical well [in Louisiana.] … Overall, we remain excited about the Brown Dense and we’re going to continue to work to unlock the commerciality of this Play.”

Ed Ratchford, a fossil fuel supervisor with the Arkansas Geological Survey in Little Rock, said some of the wells in the Brown Dense have produced oil, “but it’s been very meager. … This is not uncommon when a new play is started.”

However, he thinks it’s a good sign that Southwestern applied for the permit to drill on the Arkansas side of the Brown Dense.



Please read our comments policy before commenting.