The Unexpected Effect Of The Downturn On Fracking Technology
News Article by Oak Creek Whitetail Ranch
With some degree of irony, the downturn in the energy industry caused by the collapse in the price of oil and the slashing of oil company budgets that has resulted has had a positive effect on the adoption of innovative technologies, say some technology developers.
“In the last several years, many operators have been too busy to stop and look at ways to enhance their hydraulic fracturing methods; if something worked for them, they didn’t have time to examine alternatives,” says David Browne, director, marketing and community relations, for Calgary-based Trican Well Service.
“Now, they have more opportunities to look at other technologies and examine ways of improving their entire process. Rigs are now more adapted to horizontal wells, and drillers are becoming better and better. What used to take three weeks now takes one week. Completion technologies, such as ball drops, are much more effective,” Browne told New Technology Magazine.
Not only are horizontal drilling expenses being slashed through an array of advanced technologies (like automated drilling and pad drilling), completion specialists are seeking out a variety of ways to reduce costs, increase production and improve net present value and estimated ultimate recovery for each well.
When the price of crude oil was high and the sector was booming, shortcomings in hydraulic fracturing technology—including the use of high volumes of fresh water, relatively little control over the pattern and direction of the crack networks and clogging of the reservoir as the proppant and additives chemically decompose—could be ignored.
Early generation frac technology was also hit-and-miss; typically, only 25–33 per cent of fracture stages were as productive as designed, meaning that a minority of the reservoir was being effectively drained. And it was expensive: the fracturing phase could easily surpass the cost of drilling the hole.
With the fall in prices, such downsides could no longer be glossed over. And today’s advanced proppants, and the fluids that carry them to their destination in the reservoir, are saving money and adding value, Browne says.