Hydraulic fracturing is the propagation of fractures in a rock layer caused by the presence of a pressurized fluid.
Some hydraulic fractures form naturally, as in the case of veins or dikes, and are a means by which gas and petroleum from source rocks may migrate to reservoir rocks. Induced hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracking, commonly known as fracking, is a technique used to release petroleum, natural gas (including shale gas, tight gas and coal seam gas), or other substances for extraction.[a] This type of fracturing creates fractures from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations. A distinction can be made between low-volume hydraulic fracturing used to stimulate highpermeability reservoirs, which may consume typically 20,000 to 80,000 US gallons (76,000 to 300,000 l; 17,000 to 67,000 imp gal) of fluid per well, with high-volume hydraulic fracturing, used in the completion of tight gas and shale gas wells; high-volume hydraulic fracturing can use as much as 2 to 3 million US gallons (7.6 to 11 Ml) of fluid per well. This latter practice has come under scrutiny internationally, with some countries suspending or even banning it. The first use of hydraulic fracturing was in 1947, though the current fracking technique was first used in the late 1990s in the Barnett Shale in Texas. The energy from the injection of a highlypressurized fracking fluid creates new channels in the rock which can increase the extraction rates and ultimate recovery of fossil fuels. According to the International Energy Agency, the global use of natural gas will rise by more than 50% compared to 2010 levels, and account for over 25% of world energy demand in 2035. Proponents of fracking point to the vast amounts of formerly inaccessible hydrocarbons the process can extract. However, there remain large uncertainties in the amount of gas reserves that can be accessed in this way. Detractors point to potential environmental impacts, including contamination of ground water, risks to air quality, the migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, surface contamination from spills and flowback and the health effects of these. State and federal regulatory agencies and the industry are working to address these concerns. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting a study, set to be released for peer review at the end of 2012, of hydraulic fracturing's impact on drinking water and ground water resources.
Schematic depiction of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas, showing potential environmental effects.
At such depth. due to the load caused by the overlying rock strata. where the vein material can be seen to have been added in a series of discrete fracturing events. water. there may not be sufficient permeability or reservoir pressure to allow natural gas and oil to flow from the rock into the wellbore at economic rates. which require the walls of the fracture to move apart. their orientations can be used to infer past stress states. such as dikes or vein-filled fractures. This process is referred to as 'seismic pumping'.000 feet (1.
Most vein systems are a result of repeated hydraulic fracturing during periods of relatively high pore fluid pressure. In sedimentary rocks with a significant water content the fluid at the propagating fracture tip will be steam. This is particularly clear in the case of 'crack-seal' veins. induced hydraulic fractures in wellbores are sometimes used to determine stress orientations. Hydraulic fracturing enables the production of natural gas and oil from rock formations deep below the earth's surface (generally 5. This is particularly so in the case of 'tensile' (Mode 1) fractures. working against this confining pressure. such as petroleum.500–6. One mechanism to explain such examples of long-lasting repeated fracturing is the effects of seismic activity. such that the minimum principal stress becomes tensile and exceeds the tensile strength of the material. Reservoirs are typically porous sandstones. Fractures formed in this way will typically be oriented perpendicularly to the minimum principal stress and for this reason. Thus. or natural gas can be produced from subterranean natural reservoirs.000–20. with extra vein material deposited on each occasion. but also include 'unconventional reservoirs' such as shale rock or coal beds.100 m)). in which the stress levels rise and fall episodically and large volumes of fluid may be expelled from fluid-filled fractures during earthquakes. although in this case the fluid is magma. In natural examples.
High-level minor intrusions such as dikes propagate through the crust in the form of fluid-filled cracks. creating conductive fractures in the rock is essential to extract gas from
. limestones or dolomite rocks.
Rocks often contain evidence of past hydraulic fracturing events.Mechanics
Fracturing in rocks at depth is suppressed by the confining pressure. Hydraulic fracturing occurs when the effective stress is reduced sufficiently by an increase in the pressure of fluids within the rock.
Induced hydraulic fracturing
The technique of hydraulic fracturing is used to increase or restore the rate at which fluids.
B. hydraulic fracturing is also applied to:
Stimulating groundwater wells Preconditioning rock for caving or inducing rock to cave in mining As a means of enhancing waste remediation processes. created fractures would not close completely and therefore enhanced productivity. which is measured in the microdarcy to nanodarcy range. The process was further described by J. Oklahoma. To increase injection rates for geologic sequestration of CO2
Fracturing as a method to stimulate shallow. The experiment was not very successful as deliverability of the well did not change appreciably. The same phenomenon was discovered with water injection and squeeze cementing operations. Halliburton performed the first two commercial hydraulic fracturing treatments in Stephens County. Later the same method was applied to water and gas wells. and Archer County. a gas industry research consortium that received approval for research and funding from the
. will allow companies to frack more efficiently.000 US gallons (3. 830 imp gal) of napalm (gelled gasoline) and sand from the Arkansas River was injected into the gas producing limestone formation at 2. Significant R&D and technology demonstration were necessary before hydraulic fracturing could be commercially applied to shale gas deposits. a set of dozens of public-private hydro-fracturing pilot demonstration projects. The relationship between well performance and treatment pressures was studied by Floyd Farris of Stanolind Oil and Gas Corporation. This study became a basis of the first hydraulic fracturing experiment.800 l. So-called 'super fracking'. hard rock oil wells in Pennsylvania. New York. For the well treatment 1. usually hydrocarbon waste or spills Dispose of waste by injection into deep rock formations As a method to measure the stress in the earth For heat extraction to produce electricity in an enhanced geothermal systems. Due to acid etching. which creates cracks deeper in the rock formation to release more oil and gas. Since then. A patent on this process was issued in 1949 and an exclusive license was granted to the Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company. which was conducted in 1947 at the Hugoton gas field in Grant County of southwestern Kansas by Stanolind. The yield for a typical shale gas well generally falls off sharply after the first year or two. and West Virginia by using liquid and later also solidified nitroglycerin dates back to the 1860s. Fractures provide a conductive path connecting a larger volume of the reservoir to the well. hydraulic fracturing has been used to stimulate approximately a million oil and gas wells. Texas. Kentucky. due to shale's high porosity and low permeability. Clark of Stanolind in his paper published in 1948.400 feet (730 m). thereby increasing the volume from which natural gas and liquids can be recovered from the targeted formation.shale reservoirs because of the extremely low natural permeability of shale. On March 17. While the main industrial use of hydraulic fracturing is in stimulating production from oil and gas wells. In the 1970s the federal government initiated both the Eastern Gas Shales Project. 1949. and the Gas Research Institute. The idea to use acid as a nonexplosive fluid for a well stimulation was introduced in the 1930s.
Sandia National Laboratories was conducting research into microseismic imaging for use in coalbeds. The Department of Energy later subsidized Mitchell Energy's first successful horizontal drill in the north-Texas Barnett Shale in 1991. Mitchell Energy engineers would go on to develop the hydraulic fracturing technique known as 'slickwater fracturing' that started the modern shale gas boom. the Department of Energy pioneered massive hydraulic fracturing in tight sandstone formations. following treatment by introducing a proppant—a material such as grains of sand. Formation fluids include gas. loss of fracturing fluid from the fracture channel into the surrounding permeable rock. The rock cracks and the fracture fluid continues farther into the rock. The propped fracture is permeable enough to allow the flow of formation fluids to the well. oil. extending the crack still farther. If not controlled properly. In 1986. hydraulic fracturing is performed in cased wellbores and the zones to be fractured are accessed by perforating the casing at those locations. The fracture gradient is defined as the pressure increase per unit of the depth due to its density and it is usually measured in pounds per square inch per foot or bars per meter. or slow its decline. Among others these improvements included usage of downhole drilling motors and telemetry equipment. This may result formation matrix damage. or altered fracture geometry and therefore decrease of production efficiency. it can exceed 70% of the injected volume. that prevent the fractures from closing when the injection is stopped and the pressure of the fluid is reduced — into the injected fluid.Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. occurs. a geologic mapping technique that would prove crucial for the commercial recovery of natural gas from shale as well as oil from offshore drilling rigs. or other particulates. In the late 1970s. a joint DOEprivate venture completed the first successful multi-fracture horizontal well in shale. fresh water and fluids introduced to the formation during completion of the well during fracturing. During the process fracturing fluid leakoff. adverse formation fluid interactions. Consideration of proppant strengths and prevention of proppant failure becomes more important at deeper depths where pressure and stresses on fractures are higher. a completion technique that would be improved upon for the economic recovery of shale gas in the future. Typically. ceramic. In 1980s improvements of existing and implementation of new technologies for horizontal drilling increased its application in conventional drilling.
A hydraulic fracture is formed by pumping the fracturing fluid into the wellbore at a rate sufficient to increase pressure downhole to exceed that of the fracture gradient (pressure gradient) of the rock. Operators typically try to maintain "fracture width". Over this time. salt water. The location of one or more fractures along the length of the borehole is strictly controlled by various different methods which create or seal-off holes in the side of the wellbore. Well types
. and so on.
The gels are broken down with appropriate breakers. After the fracturing job the pH is reduced to 3–4 so that the cross-links are broken and the gel is less viscous and is therefore pumped out. CMHPG) based. Hydraulic fracturing can be used to restore permeability.000 feet (3. foams. and up to 10. including nitrogen.500 m) in the Barnett Shale basin in Texas.500 to 5.5% is water and sand. According to Kathleen Hartnett White of the Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment. coalbeds or shales. These are guar based fluids cross-linked with Boron ions (from aqueous borax/boric acid solution). Organometallic-crosslinked fluids zirconium. According to the study prepared for the United States Department of Energy. This reduces flow into the borehole from the surrounding rock formation. HEC.000 feet (460 to 1. of the fracking fluid over 99. a vertical well only accesses the thickness of the rock layer. and compressed gases. antimony. Horizontal drilling involves wellbores where the terminal drillhole is completed as a 'lateral' that extends parallel with the rock layer containing the substance to be extracted. laterals extend 1. For example.While hydraulic fracturing is many times performed in vertical wells.5–2% while water accounts 98–99. typically 50–300 feet (15–91 m). CMHEC. So once the proppant is pumped down along with the cross-linked gel and the fracturing part is done. titanium salts are known to cross-link the guar based gels. Horizontal drilling also reduces surface disruptions as fewer wells are required to access a given volume of reservoir rock.
. When done in already highly-permeable reservoirs such as sandstone-based wells. reducing the permeability at and near the wellbore. and the chemicals accounts about 0. Fracturing process The fluid injected into the rock is typically a slurry of water. proppants. chromium. and partially seals off the borehole from the surrounding rock. guar or its derivatives (HPG. Additionally. There are more than 50 types of fluids that can potentially be used as fracturing fluids. with other chemicals providing the necessary chemistry for the desired results. Hydraulic fracturing is commonly applied to wells drilled in low permeability reservoir rock such as tigh sands. gels. following are the fracturing fluids used at more than 95% of fracturing jobs world wide:
Conventional linear gels. Drilling usually induces damage to the pore space at the wellbore wall. and chemical additives. the additives in the fracturing fluid accounts 0.5%. Borate-crosslinked fluids. These gels have higher viscosity at pH 9 onwards and are used to carry proppants. the technique is known as "well stimulation". These gels are cellulose derivatives (CMC. HPCMHEC). In contrast. The cross-linking mechanism is not reversible. carbon dioxide and air can be injected.5%.000 m) in the Bakken formation in North Dakota. today it is also performed in horizontal wells.
000 US gallons (23. Various types of proppant include silica sand. Fracturing equipment operates over a range of pressures and injection rates.4 cu ft/s) (100 barrels per minute). low-pressure flexible hoses. high-pressure treating iron. The proppant's purpose is primarily to provide a permeable and permanent filler to fill the void created during the fracturing process so that oil and gas can flow to the wellbore. and treating pressure. such as a ceramin proppant. These vary depending on the type of permeability or grain strength needed.000 psi) and 265 litres per second (9.300. high-volume fracturing pumps (typically powerful triplex. 5. acid is initially used to scour the perforations and clean up the near-wellbore area. Injected fluid is to some degree recovered and is managed by several methods. This fracture fluid contains water-soluble gelling agents (such as guar gum) which increase viscosity and efficiently deliver the proppant into the formation.
Water is by far the largest component of fracking fluids. and man-made ceramics. Aluminium phosphate and ester oils are slurried to form cross-linked gel. with the pressure above the fracture gradient of the rock.000 to 600.
Aluminium phosphate-ester oil gels. such as underground injection control. one or more high-pressure. viscosity reducing agents such as oxidizers and enzyme breakers are sometimes then added to the fracturing fluid to deactivate the gelling agents and encourage flowback. high-pressure fracture fluid is injected into the wellbore. varying slightly based on the type of well. and can reach up to 100 megapascals (15.000 to 2. treatment and discharge. one or more units for storage and handling of proppant. or quintiplex pumps) and a monitoring unit. As the fracturing process proceeds. The composition of injected fluid is sometimes changed as the fracturing job proceeds. Afterward.
. or temporary storage in pits or containers while new technology is being continually being developed and improved to better handle wastewater and improve reusability. resin-coated sand. The initial drilling operation itself may consume from 6. Hydraulic-fracturing equipment used in oil and natural gas fields usually consists of a slurry blender. The most commonly utilized proppant is silica sand. Often.000 l. and improve its operation. a chemical additive unit (used to accurately monitor chemical addition). However. They are very limited in use currently. recycling. proppants of uniform size and shape. Chemical additives are applied to tailor the injected material to the specific geological situation. because of formation damage and the difficulty in clean-up. and many gauges and meters for flow rate. fluid density.000 to 500.000 imp gal) of fracking fluids. the recovered fluid may be harmful due in part to minerals picked up from the formation. Although the concentrations of the chemical additives are very low. Associated equipment includes fracturing tanks. These are one of first known gelling systems. Due to a higher porosity within the fracture. a greater amount of oil and natural gas is liberated. protect the well. Sand containing naturally radioactive minerals is sometimes used so that the fracture trace along the wellbore can be measured. At the end of the job the well is commonly flushed with water (sometimes blended with a friction reducing chemical) under pressure. is believed to be more effective.