Congratulations, Canada. The Horn River Field, it turns out, may be the best shale play in N America:
Exxon is most encouraged by the exploration of 250,000 acres it has leased in the Horn River Basin, in northern British Columbia. Mr. Cejka said results from the first four wells lead the company to conclude that each well will produce between 16 million and 18 million cubic feet of gas a day.
That's five times the size of average wells in Texas's Barnett shale and comparable to big wells in Louisiana's Haynesville shale, two major shale-gas fields that already have moved the U.S. natural-gas market from scarcity to abundance.
Though Exxon is better known as the nation's largest oil company, "We are really interested in shale gas," Mr. Cejka said, detailing the company's push into the energy-exploration business, which was once dominated by scrappy independent companies.
Other energy companies also are excited about the Horn River field. "This may be the best shale play in North America," said Michael Graham, an executive vice president at EnCana Corp., a Calgary company that already has a big Horn River presence. Mr. Graham said EnCana's latest wells are approaching Exxon's in terms of initial production.
Exxon's Mr. Cejka said that his company also has pieced together substantial leases in prospective shale-gas formations in Germany, Hungary and Poland, and is still adding acreage. Tests on two wells in Hungary, where Exxon and partners hold 400,000 acres, are expected this year. It will be the first time the shale there has been tested.
"Depending on how that goes, we'll either be patting ourselves on the back or walking away," Mr. Cejka said.
The company also plans 10 wells on 750,000 acres it holds in northern German's Lower Saxony Basin this year to better study the geology.