What I Saw at URTeC

The Unconventional Resources Technology Conference (URTeC) has retained its anachronistic name even as "unconventional" resources have become the norm. While it used to be the premier conference for cutting edge insight, its position has slipped as most effort in the industry, and thus most papers at most conferences, address shale production. Still it offers the only venue for engineers, geologists and geophysicists to meet and dialogue, and this year's conference offered some insight both to the science and to the industry.

Most interesting was the outsized discussion of the Vaca Muerta shale of Argentina. The colorfully-named shale has long been the leader among international shales, but the scope and depth of the work suggests that it may be on its way to the big leagues. Only three areas merited "special sessions" in the program--the Delaware basin, the Bakken and the Vaca Muerta shale. A dozen papers by as many companies showed diverse and sophisticated science being applied and by multiple players, and this is part of the formula for success in the US.

The exhibit hall and presentation rooms were both petit by comparison to prior years, and they struggled to accommodate the sometimes overflowing crowds. The exhibit hall did, however, unveil two developments among software. First RTA seems to be available now is a third commercial package which hails from Argentina, Sahara. Second, the most modern of the reserves & economics programs, Value Navigator, has been bought by 3esi-Enersight. In theory the offerings of the two firms complement each other synergistically. (We'll see.)

In the presentation rooms, it was interesting to me that there was relatively little talk about production decline methods. One powerful paper, though, took the Transient Hyperbolic decline model to the top of my list of candidates to replace Arps. It offers the best representation of reality I've yet found, and it was the highlight of the proceedings for me. (URTeC 2697557)

The discussion also included nearly a half-dozen papers on refracturing and twice as many on interference between wells. Indeed, these plus enhanced oil recovery (which was treated in three papers) are three of the biggest, systematic drivers of recovery from shales in the medium to long term. Good to see that the body of insight is coalescing.

In September and October, this column will examine and report on the state of the art in each of these three areas in detail which can't be treated well in summary. You can watch for the analyses on LinkedIN, or you can sign up here to receive my intermittent newsletter, including links to major articles and some additional commentary.

Besides the modest technical content, though, it was good to see friends. . . Phil, Blake, Amy, Jon, Kat, Ilphe, Whitney, Dave, Ibe, John, Ryan, Ryan, Shawn, Cody, Caroline, Chris, David, Janette, Dr. Lee, Tom, Judy, Gary, Ray, Umkar, Neal, Andy, Bobby, Carl, Alanya, Rob and others. (Sorry I missed you, Jill.) Thank you, all, for catching up.