Competitive Shales Business
Since we first entered the shale oil and gas business in 2005, we have matured by focusing our portfolio on high-margin shales, through continuous improvement and by embedding an unconventional culture. We are competitive against our regional and international peers because we can move as nimbly and efficiently as an independent producer but with the strength of a major energy company.
Shell’s Shales business is focused on high-margin tight oil positions and low-cost gas assets in the Americas. We hold some of the best core-acreage positions in the Permian Basin in Texas and the Neuquén Basin in Argentina, which deliver more than half of our production.
Energy sources fueling the 21st century must be cost-effective, reliable, and efficient. Shell has successfully leveraged its strengths as a major – technology, integration, and scale – to accomplish this. We have created and customized technological solutions that not only offer short-term efficiency gains but have the potential to transform the way our shale assets are developed and operated. We are actively developing and testing new innovations in automation and digitalisation and we created real-time Drilling Automation and Remote Technology (DART) Centers to manage integrated workflows and rapidly move technical innovations and well design improvements between assets. Meanwhile, we have leveraged Shell’s global supply chain and developed key supplier relationships. We also continue to drive speed and simplicity across the entire organization. For example, we have rationalized well material specifications to ensure they are fit for purpose for Shales. At the same time, we have placed safety and social performance at the forefront of our activities.
Shell aims to provide a world-class investment case while maintaining a strong societal license to operate. By focusing on the sustainability of our assets over the long term, we’ll continue to provide competitive returns for shareholders and positive contributions to society.
Our high-graded portfolio includes three light, tight oil basins in Alberta, West Texas and Argentina; and a gas asset in British Columbia.
We have some of the best core-acreage positions within our tight oil assets. The Permian Basin in West Texas is the premier shale play in North America, and our Permian Basin asset is the foundation for enabling growth in the business. In Argentina we operate a total of four blocks in the Vaca Muerta, with working interest in three others. These blocks have 90% black oil with minor amounts of natural gas and water content.
Shell prioritizes profitable light tight oil (LTO) production growth and targeting investment toward the Permian and Fox Creek assets. Our Groundbirch gas asset presents longer-term option value. We are actively appraising acreage so that resources can be brought onto production at the right time.
With few barriers to entry and low startup costs, the shale industry generally consists of many small, nimble, and low-cost operators. When Shell entered the shale business, many believed that a large energy company couldn’t compete in the fast-paced shale industry. However, through an ongoing focus on cost, technological advancement, and efficiency, we have improved our competitiveness and focused our portfolio, and we are now pleased to own a very high-quality asset base.
Our size and scale provide capabilities that set us apart from other shale developers. We capture commercial value through our supply and trading business and competitive supply chains and we are deploying new digital technology to make our operations safer and more efficient.
In an industry that is constantly evolving, Shell continuously makes adjustments to our shale activities to become even more nimble. We have turned drilling from an art to a science, designing the drilling parameters for our wells on a foot-by-foot basis.
Increasing both the length and completion intensity of wells has allowed us to unlock trapped hydrocarbons at deeper locations and thus significantly increase the ultimate recovery per well. Further, while increasing lateral length more than 50%, we have also decreased overall well costs by more than 50% since 2014.
With improved efficiency, we have driven down the break-even price (BEP) in sweet spots. Our production has more than doubled from 173,000 boe/d in 2013 to approximately 356,000 boe/d in 2018, exceeding our target in each year. Since 2016, we’ve achieved approximately a 45% cycle time reduction in our well pad delivery process. In drilling and completions, we have achieved best-in-class cost performance in all the basins in which we operate.
Learn more about Shell’s world-class investment case.