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.)

“The fact that they’re still testing means that they haven’t walked away from it,” he said. “So that’s a positive.”

High Hopes

Southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana have produced oil and gas since the 1920s. Oil companies used conventional wells in the area to tap the more accessible oil located in the upper Smackover. But deeper down, in the lower Smackover, is carbonate mudstone, a substance whose hardness has been compared to concrete.

Geologists have known for decades that oil and other valuable minerals were trapped inside shale and mudstone. But not until the development of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, did the value of the oil or gas exceed the cost of extracting it.

In 2008, Border Exploration LLC of Lafayette, La., attempted to break through the Brown Dense formation in Arkansas. Its attempts failed and now that well is abandoned.

In 2011, Southwestern Energy announced it was going to test wells in the Brown Dense area of Arkansas.

The Brown Dense “has the critical properties necessary to be a successful play and compares favorably to other productive oil plays in the United States,” said Southwestern President and CEO Steve Mueller in a 2011 filing with the Arkansas Oil & Gas Commission.

Southwestern has more than 500,000 acres leased in the Brown Dense Play in southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana, making it the company with the most acres leased.

The No. 2 company is Cabot Oil & Gas. Corp. of Houston, which holds leases to fewer than 15,000 acres in the Brown Dense.

About a year and a half ago, Southwestern and Cabot drilled for oil on the Arkansas side of the Brown Dense as part of a test phase.

“Neither of those wells were productive,” said Lawrence Bengal, director of the Oil & Gas Commission. “They’re in temporarily abandoned stage. There’s been no wells drilled since that time.”

In July 2012, Cabot said it had placed on hold its plan to drill.



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