PITTSBURGH—“Purple Haze” changed the landscape for rock guitar by introducing the world to an unparalleled talent in Jimi Hendrix. Similarly, Eclipse Resources’ Purple Hayes super-lateral in Guernsey County, Ohio, announced the Utica Shale in a major way when the company released the well’s figures earlier this year.

The well is the largest onshore horizontal lateral ever drilled in the country. It has a total measured depth of 27,048 ft that was drilled in less than 18 days, with a completed lateral extension of about 18,500 ft.

The State College, Pa.-based company has been rapidly expanding its lateral lengths—from 2013 to 2015, lengths increased 200% from 6,000 ft to 13,500 ft, according to Oleg Tolmachev, Eclipse’s senior vice president of drilling and completions, who spoke at Hart Energy’s recent DUG East Conference & Exhibition.

This figure is increased even more when Purple Hayes is factored in, jumping to 300%.

The total drilling and completion costs for the well were $850 per lateral foot, which Tolmachev said will improve well economic costs in the region.

“Drilling a super-lateral creates a huge step change…by making the area more economical and resilient in a low commodity price environment. We expect 20% to 30% improvement in [finding and development] F&D costs by reducing the number of vertical penetrations to develop the reservoir, which will reduce the associated costs such as well pads and rig movements,” he said.

The move to super-laterals is resulting in well returns improving by 35% to 70% over shorter lateral wells, he continued.

The Purple Hayes well oil rig could very well change the face of shale production, as it took just under 18 drilling days to complete from surface spud to grassroots total depth, which makes other drilling techniques in the region seem obsolete, Tolmachev said.

“The basin frack operations were nothing short of impressive with 5.3 stages per day on average. This was an astoundingly high number considering that the first stage operation was almost 27,000 feet deep. The entire frack operation took 23.5 days from start to finish,” he said.

In order to achieve the results from the Purple Hayes well, Eclipse took a systemic, process-driven approach to its execution strategy in order to produce reliable and consistent results. This strategy included extensive well planning iterations, drilling and completion pipe torque and drag modeling, a tight range of mud parameters, bit selection, cement design, wireline drag models, frack design and drill out method.

“Super-laterals allow us to dramatically lower F&D cost, which is crucial in today’s low commodity price environment,” he said. This approach enhances the economically viable acreage footprint by achieving lower costs beyond service cost reductions, as it also improves individual wells’ internal rate of return..

Perhaps most important, the technology used on the Purple Hayes well is transferrable to other plays beyond the Marcellus and Utica.

“This technology can be utilized in any play where construction and facilities infrastructure, as well as vertical well cost, are a significant portion of the F&D cost. The lessons learned from Purple Hayes give Eclipse the ability to maximize lateral lengths on all of its operated acreage,” Tolmachev said.

Frank Nieto can be reached at fnieto@hartenergy.com.