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Hydraulic Fracturing- the process, driving force and current trend

Friday, 16 October 2015 14:00 Written by 

Opening Remark

Production of hydrocarbon fluid from geological formation depends on two main factors i.e. uninterrupted flow (highly permeable rock) and a clean wellbore with intact formation. However, in most of the situations , it is very difficult to encounter both the situations in ideal conditions. As a result, an artificial production stimulation technique such as hydraulic fracturing is required to be applied to enhance the release of the liquid and to maximize the life of the well. Currently, nine out of 10 natural gas wells in the United States are artificially stimulated through hydraulic fracturing. . Today’s oil and gas industry has become heavily dependent on the hydraulic fracturing process as an enhanced hydrocarbon recovering process. Because of its extensive use, it has also become a threat to the environment.

Understanding the hydraulic fracturing process

Hydraulic Fracturing (also known as ‘fracking’) is one of the ways of artificially stimulating a well to produce more hydrocarbons where millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to break apart the rock and release the gas and fluid. Due to pressurized injection of high volume of fluid and proppant series of fractures are generated by cracking the formation. As a result, artificial permeability has been generated in the formation which helps the fluids to flow through the fractures easily.

Driving force for hydraulic fracturing

The main driving force for hydraulic fracturing is to convert non-permeable rocks into highly permeable ones. In the conventional oil and gas exploration strategy, these hydrocarbon bearing tight rocks are identified as a non-reservoir, but with the help of hydraulic fracturing technology, they can be converted to a reservoir with production of hydrocarbons. Additionally, in mature oil and gas fields, hydraulic fracturing technology extends the life of older wells. Hydraulic fracturing has also been carried out in horizontal wells, where the exposure to the reservoir is more and hence can enable get more production.

Current trends

Trends in hydraulic fracturing over the years have closely followed an increased knowledge or better understanding of what occurs in the formation during a fracturing treatment. Over the years, hydraulic fracturing fluids have undergone many changes showing a distinct evolution. At the beginning, during 1947, fracking fluid used to be gasoline gelled with napalm which is a highly flammable sticky jelly. In 1980s and ‘90s the fracking industry started to use foamed fluid with advanced breakers. Currently, the industry is looking into developing polymer free fracking fluids. In terms of fracture propping agents, the development has been more radical. The industry started with river sand as the fracture propping agent. Some unsuccessful experiments were carried out to use glass, aluminium pellets etc. as fracturing propping agents. However, the use of sand as fracturing propping agent is more popular in the industry. After 1990, substantial development has been made in hydraulic fracturing technology through introduction of fracture modeling techniques and real time monitoring. In this regards, use of micro-seismic monitoring has increased the efficiency and accuracy of the fracking procedure.

Concluding remark

It is important to properly engineer and optimize a hydraulically fractured well by selecting the right materials, evaluating the economic benefits of the project and ensuring the safety and success of the people, environment and equipment. From data estimation to design, operation and performance management, a logical step-by-step process should be there for hydraulic fracturing that aids in proper engineering decision making when stimulating a particular reservoir.

Last modified on Friday, 04 November 2016 12:08
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