The idea of a successful oilfield develop­ment program has not changed over the 150-plus years of hydrocarbon explo­ration, but the tools used and the knowledge required that provide the means to the end continue to evolve. The goal remains to drain the highest percentage of oil and gas with the least amount of capital investment. Striking a balance between financial outlay and recov­erable resource is an ongoing battle. Spend too little and you’re likely to catch criticism for leaving oil in the ground. Spend too much and investors will question your efficiency. The emergence of the development phase in many U.S. unconventional plays has operators still searching for the sweet spot.

In the Permian Basin, operators are chal­lenging the complex geology of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico with aggressive drilling programs designed to find the balance between dollars and volumes—pushing the well spacing envelope in the name of enhanced ultimate recovery and its favorable impact on the bottom line.

Results, however, have not been kind.

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