“We usually find oil in a new place with old ideas. Sometimes, we find oil in an old place with a new idea, but we seldom find much oil in an old place with an old idea.”
“Several times in the past we have thought that we were running out of oil, when actually we were running out of ideas.” — Parke A. Dickey, University of Tulsa Petroleum geology professor, September 1958
More than 50 years later, Professor Dickey's statement still seems timeless. Devon's projects are not defined by old ideas and many of our exploration endeavors attempt to unlock the resources others may have left behind. We have developed world-class natural gas fields in places long overlooked as unproductive and uneconomical.
The coalbeds of northwest New Mexico's San Juan Basin and the Barnett Shale of North Texas were ignored for decades by oilmen drilling for less complicated sandstone targets above and below. Howver, coalbed natural gas production grew throughout the first decade of the 21st century, and shale represents the future of the North American natural gas industry. Unconventional natural gas fields are among the most prolific in North America, and Devon is a leader in developing them.
In 1989, Devon became one of the first companies to produce economically viable quantities of natural gas from coalbeds. Drilling into northwest New Mexico's Fruitland coal formations, the company's innovation and persistence helped unlock the secrets to producing coalbed natural gas, which has become a major energy resource in North America. Devon's coalbed operations in the San Juan Basin are expected to ultimately produce more than 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Successes in the San Juan Basin have led to other coalbed reservoirs in Wyoming and to exploration projects in Montana, Oklahoma and western Canada.
The company asserted its pioneering spirit again in developing the huge Barnett Shale natural gas field in 2002 when it acquired Mitchell Energy. After charting new ground in New Mexico and Wyoming, technical challenges the Barnett offered in North Texas were a natural fit for Devon. Devon continued its path of innovation by improving fracturing techniques, using horizontal drilling as well as advanced seismic imaging technology and enhanced recovery methods. Since 2002, the company's production has doubled to 1.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas equivalent per day, more than any other company operating in what is the largest gas field in Texas.
Thanks largely to its determination in the Barnett Shale, Devon today is the second-largest gas producer in Texas. The Barnett Shale proved so successful that today producers are developing other shale formations throughout North America.
The Fruitland coalbeds and the Barnett Shale were not new places when Devon targeted them for development. They had been passed over and drilled through many times. But, as professor Dickey said in 1958, sometimes, all it takes to reinvigorate an old place is a new idea.