SHREVEPORT, La.—After a couple of dismal years for E&Ps in northern Louisiana, the Haynesville Shale is “roaring back” for Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK), vice president Tim Beard said during the inaugural DUG Haynesville conference and exhibition’s opening keynote on Feb. 21.

Beard said technological breakthroughs with longer laterals and improved completion designs have led Chesapeake to roughly 30% production growth in the Haynesville since 2016. He also pointed to an even brighter future in the play with the possibility for refracks and a recent “monster well” in the Bossier.

The company was partly motivated by a 2015 gas gathering agreement for its Haynesville assets with the Williams Cos. (NYSE: WMB). The transaction included a commitment by Chesapeake to bring 140 wells online before the end of 2017. At the time, Chesapeake said it expected “significant production growth in the Haynesville Shale asset over the next two years.”

“It’s not just a Chesapeake thing... this is an industry thing,” Beard said of Haynesville activity. As an example, he pointed to the most recent rig count data from Baker Hughes Inc. (NYSE: BHGE), a GE company, which show a spike in the region's activity.

In the past year, the Haynesville has added nearly 50% more rigs. As of Feb. 16, operators deployed 50 rigs in the play—compared to 34 in 2017. By comparison, the Marcellus Shale is running 56 rigs, according to Baker Hughes.

Production has also jumped with a February forecast of about 8 billion cubic feet of gas per day (cf/d)—volumes last seen in the region in 2013, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

“There’s excitement in the basin again—the Haynesville is hot once again,” Beard told the crowd of more than 750 attendees who gathered for Hart Energy’s first DUG conference for Haynesville shale players.

Still, one of Beard’s presentation slides proclaimed “Chesapeake owns the Haynesville” due to its technological advantages and core position. The company expects to maintain a three-rig program in the play for 2018.

Beard, who was recently reassigned to oversee Chesapeake’s Rockies region after overseeing both the Rockies and Haynesville, said: “my time in the Haynesville was some of the most rewarding time of my career.”

Chesapeake’s history in the Haynesville dates back to 2006 with a test well in the Smackover Formation in Caddo Parish, La. In 2007, the company recompleted the same well as the first horizontal Haynesville well, Beard said.

Following the announcement of its Haynesville discovery, Beard said the company unleashed its land-leasing machine in the area by 2008, “in true Chesapeake fashion.” The company’s rig count in the play peaked with 38 rigs from 2012-2014.

“The Haynesville started with a bang. It was exciting, overpressured, big gas wells,” he said.

As commodity prices nosedived in late 2014, Chesapeake’s activity in the Haynesville followed suit. The Haynesville lost its way and needed to rediscover its mojo, he said.

“The Haynesville was trying to find its way ... And then it came roaring back when it found its thing and its thing is longer laterals, bigger completions and producing wells appropriately,” he said.

The use of longer laterals and bigger completions changed the game—and returns—for Chesapeake in the Haynesville. As a result of the company’s technological advances in the play, the vast majority of the Chesapeake’s Haynesville position now looks core-like with EURs in the 2 Bcf/1,000 ft range, he said.

Chesapeake Energy Haynesville Old Core Vs. New Core

Beard said Chesapeake plans to continue to optimize its completion design in the Haynesville adding that more is not always better and that the rock differs throughout the play.

“It’s not ‘prop-a-geddon’ times, however, many wells [are] out here,” he said. The company will tweak its completions across different areas of the Haynesville.

Beard also noted an increase in Chesapeake’s completion cost per lateral foot in the Haynesville of roughly 20% due to inflation in the service sector. However, targeted spending is leading to better results.

“Sometimes you have to spend more to make more. And that’s exactly what we’re doing from a completion perspective,” he said.

Chesapeake will continue to push the envelope in the Haynesville with refracks and even longer laterals, he said.

In 2017, Chesapeake’s lateral length was primarily 10,000 ft, with the shortest lateral drilled last year around 7,500 ft. Currently, the company is drilling 15,000-ft laterals, he said, and will continue to extend laterals as it moves across the play.

In addition, Chesapeake’s December venture into the Bossier produced eye-popping results.

Chesapeake’s first producing Bossier horizontal well, the 10,000-ft Nabors 13&12-10-13 1HC, peaked at a rate of 35.8 MMfc/d. Beard said the well appears to be the longest and largest completion in the Bossier to-date.

“There is more to do in the Haynesville, and I’m excited to see what the team does,” he said.

Regulatory filings show Chesapeake’s developed Haynesville leasehold is comprised of 309,000 net acres—despite selling off nearly 120,000 net acres last year for gross proceeds of $915 million. The company’s position is 100% HBP and 25% developed, Beard said.

Emily Patsy can be reached at