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Unlock Cash and Drive Capital Efficiency with Operations Science in the Delaware Basin

The time it takes for an oil and gas company to drill, complete and put a well on production is not a metric the industry or investors have traditionally focused on. However, cycle time, meaning “time to market”, has a major impact on operator cash flow and overall profitability. A critical component of cycle time is work-in-process (WIP). WIP is the set of wells that have been spud but have not been put on production including all wells being worked on or waiting for next operation. Almost all operators track WIP, but few know how much WIP there should be and even fewer operators are actively controlling WIP.

This study finds a huge range of cycle time between operators – ranging from 110 days to over 200 days – in the Delaware basin, and with roughly 60% of the cycle time being non-operational time.

In this joint research initiative, Westwood’s Unconventional team applied an Operations Science methodology, proposed by Project Production Institute, and looked at the top 15 operators in the Delaware basin who each drilled more than 80 horizontal wells in 2018. The study set out to identify the best operators in terms of spud to first production cycle time and to estimate the excess capital potentially tied up in WIP.

Breaking the total cycle time by drill spud through first production and categorizing each stage into ‘operations’ days and ‘non-operational’ days yielded an average for operations days of 77 days while the non-operational days averaged 106 days. ‘Operations’ days include drilling and completion time (with some downtime like rigging up/down) while ‘non-operational’ days represent the time in between operations or waiting on the next operation.

Matador stands out for achieving the lowest average cycle times, but they also drilled the shortest laterals and drilled fewer wells. EOG also stands out as having a similar average cycle time as Matador while drilling nearly 7 times more wells (220 wells vs. 34 wells) and longer laterals. This is an impressive performance given that larger drilling and completion programs can make it more difficult to optimize cycle times.

The study provides a simple methodology to analyze and benchmark the efficiency of unconventional field development program in a time where capital discipline is very much to the fore. Naturally, the operators have a strong incentive to unlock free cash flow by better managing WIP.

For more insights on cycle time analysis, as well as an introduction to the methodology, and other key findings, request access to the Delaware cycle time white paper using the form below. Also, contact the Analyst directly to discuss further and learn more about Westwood’s L48 unconventional data.

James Jang, Analyst & Consultant
[email protected] or +1 (713) 714 4885

Todd Bush, Head of US Unconventionals
[email protected] or +1 (281) 846 4425