NuVista Energy Ltd. has a message for U.S. companies who thus far have been drilling longer wells than their Canadian counterparts: Horizontal lengths north of the border are increasing to new limits, notably for NuVista.

“I want to let them know that we are catching up, and we’ll eventually be drilling wells just as long as they have been,” Mark Thorne, drilling superintendent, told the Bulletin.

His company has broken the records for deepest well and longest lateral section ever drilled in Western Canada, reaching a depth of 7,848 metres — including a 5,000 metre horizontal section — with help from Pacesetter’s Orbit Rotary Steerable System and Canadian Energy Services drilling fluids (DOB, April 24, 2018).

“We drilled it pretty much in January, rig released and finished it up in early February,” he said, adding Nabors Industries Ltd. was able to drill the record-setting  well thanks largely to the rotary steerable tools.

“Unlike conventional, directional drilling, where you have to slide, rotary steering allows you to steer the well in any direction, while rotating the entire time. By doing that, you get a smoother wellbore, a smoother wellbore means less torque, and less torque means you can reach further. Also, having a smoother wellbore helps us get our completion systems in the ground.”

According to Thorne, NuVista started off drilling a well immediately prior to the record-setting one on a two-well pad. The company had plans to drill a long well, and things went so splendidly management decided to extend it. After successfully getting packers in the hole, the company decided to twin it and drill another long well.

He said: “And so we were just optimizing our land base. That’s the reason we got out to 5,000 metres. We drilled right out to our section boundary.”

For the most part, suggested Thorne, this record-setting Montney well is about double the length of NuVista’s other wells — a significant change for the company. The well is at Gold Creek, which is a relatively undeveloped land base when compared to NuVista’s more active areas.

Whether NuVista will follow up with further such deeper, longer wells depends on the results of the current ones. Crews are still flowing back the well, and production numbers are not yet available. Thorne suggested such data should be available within the next couple of months.

He noted that these longer wells were some of the lowest-cost per horizontal metre for the company, and so they are economic in terms of the drilling side of things. Also, the longer a company can drill these laterals, he added, the fewer surface locations are required.

“Obviously, you have to have favourable, competent rock that will enable you to do that. For us, it was more so the technology of rotary steerable that kept our drilling parameters low and enabled us to reach as far as we did.”