OIL & GAS
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.
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
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
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.
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
is director of wells and subsurface atthe energy consultancy Xodus Group
28 www.tcetoday.com ctugust2011