Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Standard view
Full view
of .
Save to My Library
Look up keyword
Like this
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Fracking article

Fracking article

Ratings: (0)|Views: 6 |Likes:
Published by Chad Whitehead
article that looks at fracking
article that looks at fracking

More info:

Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Chad Whitehead on Jan 23, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





Steve Jewell
exconinesthe controversialiracking process andindustry's effort tomitigate its risks
were two earthquakesrecorded near Blackpool, UKduring April this year. Both ofthem were unusually shallow and veryclose to the site of an ongoing drillingoperation for
The media blamed anew drilling technique called fracking forthese unusual 'man-made' earthquakesand operations have now been halted.
In the
residents blame fracking forcontaminating local water supplies - thereare videos of people setting fire to thewater coming from their taps. In France,the backlash against proposed projects ledparliament to ban the technique altogether.It's fair to say the public has a negativeperception of fracking but what are the realrisks and how
the industry minimisingthem?
old process, new scale
Eirst of
fracking is not new. Theprocess has been used since 1947 whenthe first attempts were made to improveor 'stimulate' oil and gas production frompoorly performing wells. The idea wasto crack or fracture the rocks containinghydrocarbons to increase the surface areaand the fiow of oil and gas, or to increasebreakthrough damage at the interface withthe wellbore.Explosives were tried but had limitedsuccess as they tended to rubblise thereservoir rock resulting in wellbore collapseand mechanical problems in the borehole.Fracturing the rock by applying hugepressures was far easier and had morepredictable results.Furthermore, drillers had a variety of fiuidsat their disposal, including
gels, foams,or compressed gases, including nitrogen, CO^and air. And so fracture stimulation was born.Fracturing, 'fraccing' or 'fracking' therock quickly became common practice inlow permeability reservoirs where oil or gasproduction might otherwise be uneconomic.Drillers deployed large high pressurepumping units capahle of delivering hugevolumes of water at sustained high pressuresand at a very fast rate.
august 2011
fracturestimulation consumeswater and chemicalsand generatespotential waste, butthe technology todeal with this andre-use the
iswell established andavailable
Main picture (left): Engineers install trackingequipment, while an elevated view (top rigt)t)shows a typical frac pump spread. Note thehigh pressure pipework between the two linesof pumps, mounted on trucks.
Large areas of the rock must be exposed toachieve commercial fiowrates and the currentapproach is to drill long horizontal wellsthrough the shale for distances of between 1and
km. This exposes a lot of rock but it isstill not enough. The horizontal borehole isthen fracked a number of times in discreetstages. Typically ten or more massive proppedfractures can be achieved in a long horizontalwell - this creates a much more significantsurface area to permit sufficient gas to fiow.
concerns run deep
There are two environmental issues facingthe industry when it comes to fracking,particularly in popuiated areas. The first isrelated to
careful management of
ten stage fracture operation may requirein excess of
gallons (1.9m
of waterwith instantaneous injection rates exceeding
m'per minute.When the fiuid has been pumped and therock has been fractured the well is flowedback to surface. Less fiuid returns and itschemical composition can change as it reactswith the rock.Processing the water and then eitherdisposing of
or re-using it is technicallystraightforward thanks to membrane anddistillation methods, but the volumesinvolved demand very careful planningand logistical management. The challengesare different between populated areas andremote regions. Sourcing the water in desertareas can obviously be problematic. In morepopulated areas it may be easier to sourcewater but the number of truck movementscan become objectionable.The first step is to split the rock. Byunderstanding the overburden, the porepressure in the reservoir, and the mechanicalproperties of the target formation, drillerscalculate the necessary fracture pressure.Once the rock is cracked open, it needs tobe held open. Otherwise, once the pumpingstops, the fracture will close or heal andthe gas will cease to
 To keep it open,engineers add a proppant material such ascoarse sand to the pumping fiuid, which fillsthe fracture and maintains the new fiow pathonce the pumping stops.Proppants and chemical additives areselected to maintain the rheology of thepumping fluid and also to make sure theproppant is delivered to the fracture, deepunderground, without dropping out ofsolution and simply falling to the bottom ofthe well.Pumping the fluid dovm requires asignificant amount of hardware.
well asthe high pressure pumping equipment (seemain picture), typical sites contain hundredsof metres of pipework and dozens of silos, andtanks.Over the years, fracture stimulation asa technique has developed significantly.Deeper and more challenging reservoirshave been targeted and the amount ofequipment needed as well as the pumpvolumes has increased dramatically. Todaythe bigger fracture treatments are deployedon gas accumulations in shale. As shale hasa relatively high concentration of organiccontent, it can contain considerable volumesof gas but due to its tight layers of sedimentthe fiow of gas is extremely limited.
august 2011
www.tcetoday.com 27
4 4
education anddemonstration isneeded to win overthe public who willnaturally tearwhat they carmotreadily seem%
Tbe second big issue and the onedominating the
at present iscontamination of the water table. To date,it is poor cementing jobs that have led tofracking fluids leaking from the well itself intolocal water supplies. These isolated incidentscould have been avoided with more robustcementing practices.Away from tbe drilled weU,tbere is anotber as yetunsubstantiated fear tbatlarge fractures canpropagate upwardsfrom tbe sbale itselfinto shallowerformations -thereby allowingfracturing fluidsto migrate intothe local watersupply, or formethane gas to leakinto the system andbe produced at tbedomestic tap.Tbese are emotive issuesand are being used to put significantpressure on government agencies to stopfracking altogetber or at least introduce amoratorium pending further investigations.
iracking challenge
it happens, the mecbanical properties ofrocks and tbeir bebaviour under stress canbe reasonably predicted. Tbere are also wellestablished metbods for tbe design of fracturestimulation treatments.Tbe size and direction of tbe fracture isdetermined in advance from data gatberedduring the driUing operation. In addition,'microseismic' monitoring arrays are used to
Figure 1:
dafa can give a strong qualitative indication of where the frac has goneand whether shallow water source formations could have been affected
indicate wbere the fracture has gone and itsapproximate size.Sensitive geophones are places around thearea of the weflbore on tbe ground surface.
tbe rock fractures, tiny seismic events arerecorded, belping to build a 3D picture ofwhat is happening deep underground (see
Figure 1).
variety of chemicals are usedin tbe fracturing fluid, cbieflyto control tbe fluid'sphysical properties orrheology. The fluidneeds to bebavepredictably over arange of pressures,temperaturesand timescales.
varierty ofproprietary
surfactants,emulsion controllersand viscosifiers areused and tbe preciserecipe of tbis cocktail canbe commercially sensitive.Tbis is a problem for industryas it suggests tbe fracking companiesbave sometbing to bide. Tbere needs tobe a greater openess about tbe type andvolume of chemicals used. They are notfundamentally harmful but the industryneeds to demonstrate this openly to win overthe general public.The biggest cballenge facing tbe industryis one of managing public perception. Yes,fracture stimulation consumes water andcbemicals and generates potential waste, buttbe tecbnology to deal witb tbis and re-usethe fluids
well established and available.Tbe risk of fracture propagation into tbewater table can also be managed beforebandthrough good geomechanical analysisand thereafter by monitoring precisely tbeensuing fracture activity.
process of education and demonstrationis needed to win over tbe public wbo willnaturally fear what they cannot readily see.This is something only the industry canachieve effectively; its arguments need tobe based on sound science, engineeringand common sense to avoid tbe pitfalls of itbecoming a political football.
for tbe recent 'eartbquakes' inBlackpool - it comes as no surprise tbat tbesewere detected by tbe extremely sensitivegeopbones of tbe Britisb Geological Survey- tbe real question is whether they picked upa man-made tremor or simply tbe fracturepropagation itself? tee
Steve Jewell
is director of wells and subsurface atthe energy consultancy Xodus Group
28 www.tcetoday.com ctugust2011

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->