[URTeC 2024] Unpacking the Uinta Basin: the next great oil play?

Unpacking the Uinta Basin: the next great oil play?

Technical Paper Details::
Technical Presentation: Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
Theme 3: : Emerging Plays and Challenges
Topic: Unpacking the Uinta Basin: the next great oil play?

Authors: J. Sigler1, L. Fidler1, T. Cross2, 1. XCL Resources, 2. Novi Labs.


This paper provides an overview of the emerging Uinta Basin unconventional oil play in northeastern Utah. The Uinta Basin has garnered significant industry attention over the last three years as production has grown rapidly with comparable, if not superior, well performance to renowned unconventional oil plays such as the Permian Basin, Eagle Ford Formation of the Gulf Coast Basin, and Williston Basin. Our study analyzes the Uinta Basin’s performance, assessing productive zones, subsurface trends, completions designs, and development strategies. A comparative perspective with more established plays, particularly the Permian Basin, is presented to contextualize the Uinta Basin’s potential.

First, we constructed multiple integrated, basin-scale datasets from public and proprietary sources for the Uinta Basin and comparison plays. Data types included wellhead production, directional surveys, completions parameters and log-based subsurface property maps. Uinta Basin subsurface mapping considered multiple benches within the Green River Formation, focused on the Uteland Butte and Castle Peak members. Subsequently, we assigned landing zones for each lateral and calculated well spacing distances and normalized completion parameters. We then conducted a descriptive statistical analysis of completions, spacing, and subsurface characteristics. Finally, a machine learning (ML) model was employed to provide a data-driven assessment of variable importance and relationships with production.

Our analysis identifies operator-controlled variables such as proppant intensity as most important for the Uteland Butte, and geological variables such as pressure as most important for the Castle Peak. Comparatively, the basin’s productivity aligns closely with that of the Delaware and Williston Basins, indicating its competitive stature in the unconventional oil play landscape. Expected long-term development density ranks above the Williston but slightly below the Permian.

With a lacustrine depositional environment and waxy crude, the Uinta Basin is distinct from the typical marine environments and high-API crude found in the other North American resource basins. However, the emerging Lower Green River-Wasatch play demonstrates the successful cross-application of the “unconventional playbook” of extended laterals, intense completions, and cube-style developments to this novel setting. This study provides the groundwork to understand this exciting new play and contextualize the impact of development designs in this setting. With new zones to explore vertically and lateral expansion away from existing developments, the Uinta basin has immense potential left to be explored.

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