Acadiana Business

Move over Haynesville

by Heather Miller

Exploration of the Brown Dense shale area in north La. and Arkansas could bring both oil and gas discoveries to the energy industry, giving the potential shale play a one-up on Haynesville, which only produces natural gas.

Fracking in to the Haynesville Shale in north Louisiana has proved a lucrative dig for the energy industry here for the past couple of years, and now the same process to tap into once unreachable resources could bring even more job opportunities to the state.

A Sunday Times-Picayune article reports on the progress of the Brown Dense Shale, which lies under Claiborne, Morehouse and Union parishes and also encompasses portions of Arkansas. Though leases and wells are springing up to explore the area, it won't be known whether the successful and sometimes controversial hydraulic fracturing technique will uncover significant discoveries.

If the fracking works, however, the Brown Dense could be a better find than Haynesville because the wells may be striking both oil and natural gas. Haynesville only produces natural gas:

Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co. announced in an earnings report in July that it has leased 460,000 acres in the Brown Dense area for $150 million, or about $326 per acre. Last month, Southwestern drilled its first well in the formation in Arkansas, and the company plans to drill a well in Claiborne Parish by the end of this year.

Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy Corp. confirmed in an Aug. 3 earnings call that it has secured 40,000 acres in the Brown Dense area. The company, which has also been active in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale area, has received a permit to drill a well in Morehouse Parish, Angelle said.

The Tuscaloosa Marine Shale area, which stretches from Texas through the center of Louisiana and into southwest Mississippi, has also garnered attention in recent months as a potential oil-and-gas producing region, becoming attractive as the price of oil has skyrocketed. In May, Devon said that it had accumulated 250,000 acres in the play, at about $180 apiece.

[Louisiana Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott] Angelle and others in the industry say it's too early to tell how much of the hard-to-reach oil is recoverable, though by next year, "you'll see enough drilling activity to start giving it some confidence of how realistic the play is."

Read more on the Brown Dale shale here.
For more on hydraulic fracturing, read "A Fix for Fracking," a ProPublica report published in The Ind on Sept. 6.