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Tuscaloosa Marine Shale: Progress Update


It’s time to follow up on the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS) and the developmental progress of the play.

Overall, it seems as if the core area is staked out and the focus is now centered on optimal completion design and the best interval within the rock formation the lateral extension of the well should be set.

If you are up for reading a brief summary of the play’s geology, check out my previous post at Another good site to reference is the Tuscaloosa Trend blog with contributions from Kirk Barrell of Amelia Resources, which can be found at

Production and Completions

Let’s take a look at some relationships between production rates and completion practices thus far.

tuscaloosa marine shale TMS Proppant Stage vs Peak Stage

This first chart compares a well’s peak month of production per stage by the amount of proppant used per stage. I have pointed out a couple of Encana’s wells that I felt would be interesting to investigate further – what makes the Anderson 17H-2 perform so much better than the Ash 31H-1?

The table below breaks down these wells for easier comparison:

tuscaloosa marine shale encana-comparison

As you can see, these two wells differ quite a bit in respect to their frac design.

Both compare similarly in GOR, number of stages, choke size, and location at roughly 15 miles apart. In addition, both wells were treated with slickwater and differ in completion date by only 9 weeks.

The first data point that stood out for me was the difference in what some call the effective lateral length. This is the length from the top of the upper most perforation to the bottom of the deepest perforation, based on the measured depth of the wellbore.

The Ash 31H-1 has an effective lateral length 1,562 feet longer than the Anderson well. So, why is there not more production from a longer lateral?

Well, if you take a look at the last two columns of the table above you’ll notice a good bit of variation between the distance between each stage and the length of the stage itself. I’m not prepared to say this is the reason behind it all – there are a lot of other factors to consider; however, it is interesting to look under the hood and see just a couple of the components at work.

According to a recent Halcon Resources investor relations report, the current industry practice is 66 foot cluster spacing and trending towards shorter spacing distances of around 50 feet. So the industry practice seems to be trending towards tighter clusters and shorter frac stages with more proppant per stage. Common practice as it seems is moving towards around 500,000 lbs/stage compared to 300,000 to 400,000 lbs/stage in older wells.

Other things to consider:

Finding the optimal volumes of fluid and proppant for the rock type is crucial, but the proper placement of proppant is just as important.

Also, clay stabilizers are providing solid results and applying a hybrid frac, both conventional gel and slickwater, appears to be the best practice going forward.

There are still more factors to take into consideration and it will be interesting to see additional breakthroughs along the learning curve as the play continues to be delineated and developed.

Speaking of which, I’m just going to toss in one more scatter plot showing the peak month rate over time for active TMS horizontals by some of the top operators.

tuscaloosa marine shale TMS First Prod Date vs Peak Rate

The one Halcon shown is the Broadway 1H which was a pretty gassy well over in Rapides Parish, LA. However, the recently announced Horseshoe Hill 11-22H-1 in Wilkinson County, MS came on with a total 24 hour average IP of 1,548 Boed. The well has an effective lateral length of 7,060 feet with 24 stages, 21 of which were pumped and the remaining 3 were partially pumped with less proppant than what was designed.

What’s next for the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale?

So what might we expect next? I expect to see more technical enhancements to completion design and well placement and then I suppose the manufacturing stage comes into effect. This would include practices of pad drilling, rig efficiency, and fine-tuning well economics.

Your Turn

What do you think? What predictions do you have for the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale? Leave a comment below.

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Matt Menchaca

Matthew Menchaca is a Research Analyst at Drillinginfo. He is a key member of the Data Management Department and the DI Analytics group. He performs industry research, tracks play development and provides various types of analysis on unconventional resource plays in the U.S. Matthew graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2010 after studying Geography and Geological Sciences.