​This illustration shows how fast Encana's drilling tech is changing

The advances in drilling technology that were cutting edge seven years ago and unlocked a massive production surge in the United States are virtually unrecognizable compared to what these systems look like today.

Pushing the limits of technology has been key to gains in places like the Permian Basin and Canada’s Montney play, where Encana is a major operator, noted executive vice-president David Hill at the company’s New York investor day last week.

“The short cycle capital nature of North American shale plays lends itself well to continuous innovation,” Hill said.

“Unlike traditional global E&P projects, where the cycle times are typically five-plus years, in shales a new innovation idea can be conceived, designed and trialed in a matter of weeks, with minimal capital risk.”

Here’s a look at how that change has manifested for Encana downhole since 2010.

Image: Encana

“If you think back to 2010, our industry was just starting to understand unconventional reservoirs and the dominant mentality was to avoid overcapitalization. This was a holdover from conventional projects where it is a common risk. The result was that well spacing was very sparse and a lot of resource was left behind in the ground,” Hill said.

“Over time the industry has continued to progress to tighter well spacing, often through infill drilling. In plays like the Permian and the Montney, where there are thousands of feet of stacked pay, it has become clear that the efficient exploitation of these resources requires a three-dimensional development model where wells are not only tightly spaced side by side but also above and below one another.”

That’s where Encana’s “cube” model comes in, where a multi-well pad targets multiple stacked pay zones and drilling and fracturing are completed simultaneously to improve results. This is the company’s new base case model for both the Montney and Permian plays.

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