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Houston-based Mertz Energy (Mertz) has announced their intention to drill a second straight-hole wildcat in an area roughly 4 miles southeast of Poplar, Mont., in the northwestern corner of Richland County. This Williston Basin location is approximately 4 miles east of the border with McCone County. The company has permitted an Ordovician test at the Sapphire #1, ne-ne 2-26n-51e, Richland County. Projected depth for this vertical Red River well will be 10,100’. The prospect represents the second Red River wildcat planned by Mertz in this township. Currently the only established production in the vicinity comes from a quartet of horizontal Bakken efforts controlled by Kraken Operating (Kraken) of Houston.
The nearest prospect to Mertz’s latest staking is almost a half-mile to the northwest at a shallow exploratory test drilled by Pioneer Oil and Gas. Abandoned in 1932, the #1, nw-se 35-27n-51e, bottomed in the Upper Cretaceous Colorado Group at a depth of 3,196’. No formation tests were performed; however, oil shows were noted in the Judith River from 1,290’ to 1,295’, and in what is believed to be the Niobrara at 2,590’–2,805’.
Roughly a mile west of Mertz’s Sapphire #1 staking is a vertical prospect, the Jackson-Rowdy #3-8, se-ne 3-36n-51e, which was drilled by Enerplus Resources (Enerplus). The operator, who was a major player in development of Bakken reserves in Elm Coulee Field, bottomed the attempt in the Three Forks at a depth of 7,800’. Primarily drilled as a pilot hole to evaluate the horizontal potential of the Bakken and Three Forks, one DST was conducted across the vertical Ratcliffe interval at 6,270’–6,310’. Recovery included 3,233’ of slightly gas- and mud-cut water and 29’ of gas-cut, thick mud emulsion. The sampler contained 950 cc of water, 1,000 cc of mud, and 0.05 cfg. With no significant shows encountered, the Jackson-Rowdy #3-8 was plugged in November 2008.
The closest established production to the Sapphire #1 spots a mile to the south at a noncommercial Bakken well within Elm Coulee Field. Originally drilled by Lyco Energy and later assigned to Enerplus, the Swiftcurrent-Marottek #11-3H, ne-nw 11-26n-51e, was first completed for an IPP of 174 bopd, 87 mcfgpd, and 250 bwpd from a short horizontal Bakken interval at 8,354’–10,488’; bottom hole landed in the sw-ne 11-26n-51e. This venture was abandoned in 2009 after producing 12.9 k bo, 6.5 mmcfg, and 70 k bw. Prior to plugging, Enerplus production-tested the Ratcliffe via vertical perforations between 6,326’and 6,342’, where a small amount of oil was recovered.
The nearest Red River penetration to Mertz’s Sapphire #1 is almost a half-mile to the northwest at Beren Corporation’s Colgan #1, nw-se 34-27n-51e. After bottoming in the Red River at a depth of 9,472’, the following five drillstem tests were performed in the well bore: the McGowan at 5,850’, Charles “C” at 6,115’, Nisku at 7,707’, Interlake at 8,576’, and the Red River “A/B” at 9,137’. The only show noted was in the Charles “C” interval at 6,115’–6,170’, where the pipe recovered 300’ of lightly gas-cut drilling mud. The Red River interval between 9,137’ and 9,276’ had a pipe recovery of 2,898’ of salt water and 1,516’ of sulfur water. The sample chamber contained 2,100 cc of sulfur water.
According to the geologist’s report for the Colgan #1, the Red River at 9,130’–9,234’ had “positive show indicators over this interval via drilling breaks and visual porosity was observed in samples. Cuttings, gas analysis, and drilling fluid data all suggest very low hydrocarbon saturation.” This failure was abandoned in 1981. Log tops for the attempt include the Charles at 5,520’, Bakken at 7,554’, Interlake at 8,590’, and the Red River came in at 9,086’ beneath a KB elevation of 2,210’.
As mentioned, Mertz’s Sapphire #1 is the second exploratory well planned by the operator in this township. The first prospect is a conventional Red River test located some 4 miles southeast of the Sapphire #1. The operator has requested permission from the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (MBOGC) to create a 160-acre spacing unit comprising the ne/4 of section 29, 26n-51e, to accommodate the drilling of a Red River wildcat. Mertz is still awaiting a decision from the MBOGC. Anticipated vertical depth for the proposed foray would be approximately 9,600’.
Only one other well has been drilled within section 29. Scaling less than a quarter-mile southwest of Mertz’s requested spacing unit, Shell Oil (Shell) punched in a vertical wildcat at the Etzel #22-29, se-nw 29-26n-51e. Drilled more than 60 years ago, this Cambrian test tapped the vertical Winnipeg at a depth of 10,128’. A total of 19 successful DSTs were conducted in the wellbore: 14 in the Mississippian, four in the Devonian, and one in the Winnipeg. With only minor shows encountered, the Etzel #22-19 was abandoned in 1952. Log tops in this attempt included the Lodgepole at 7,305’, Devonian at 8,087’, Ordovician at 9,478’, Red River at 9,588’, and the Winnipeg came in at 9,945’ beneath a ground elevation of 2,313’.
The only recent exploration in this township and, for that matter, in this area of the Williston Basin, has been conducted by Kraken. Less than a mile southwest of Mertz’s spacing request, Kraken operates a shut-in horizontal Bakken producer at the George #29-1H, nw-nw 32-26n-51e (bottom hole in the nw-nw 29-26n-51e). One of the northwestern-most horizontal wells in Elm Coulee Field and in the Williston Basin, this lateral venture has cumulated more than 10.5 k bo, 18.3 mmcfg, and 69 k bw since first going on-line in April 2014. The George #29-1H has been shut-in since August 2015. Elm Coulee Field is Montana’s largest oil pool. Following its discovery some 15 years ago, this reservoir has cumulated more than 161 mmbo from the Bakken and Three Forks.
"Flaring In The Fog"