Advanced drilling technologies such as horizontal, extended reach, multilateral or complex path drilling enable producers to recover more previously inaccessible reserves, avoid sensitive ecosystems, and reduce the number of surface locations and well bores required thereby minimizing the level of surface disturbance and environmental impact. Current drilling technologies have also significantly reduced the surface footprint of individual drilling operations, allow faster drilling with less noise, and often utilize smaller wellbore holes than previous significantly reducing the amount of waste materials generated.
Where the permeability of the reservoir rock is sufficiently high, as in most conventional deposits, the pressure surrounding the deposit will cause the hydrocarbon to migrate through the rock toward the wellbore hole once the impermeable barrier trapping the hydrocarbon has been penetrated through drilling. However, in cases where the reservoir rock is considered to have low permeability, meaning it has insufficient connectivity between pathways to allow for the natural flow of hydrocarbons, engineers may utilize a technology called hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to stimulate the reservoir and increase the permeability by creating cracks or fractures within the reservoir rock. The cracks and fractures work to connect the pathways thereby stimulating the natural flow or migration of hydrocarbons within the reservoir rock allowing for the economic recovery of reserves from low permeability or “tight” hydrocarbon deposits.
The process of hydraulic fracturing involves the pumping of large quantities of fluids through the well bore and into the rock formation at pressures that exceed the natural stresses on the rock causing it to crack, or fracture. Hydraulic fracturing fluids commonly consist of water, chemical additives, as well as proppants (often sand, ceramic pellets or other small incompressible solids) which remain in the rock following the injection process to hold or ‘prop’ open the newly created fractures. Once the injection process is complete, the excess fluid is flowed back (produced) through the well bore and typically stored on site in tanks or pits before treatment and disposal or recycling.
The use of hydraulic fracturing to improve the recoveries from hydrocarbon deposits has a long history around the world. The science and technology of hydraulic fracturing has evolved significantly since it was first used in the United States of America in 1949 to become a very safe and sophisticated drilling technique well understood across the industry by its various participants and regulators. The process has evolved to a level where today, we are able to predict the behaviour of the rock during hydraulic fracturing operations with great precision. Today’s process also incorporates multiple safeguards to protect the surrounding environment, especially groundwater.
Today’s hydraulic fracturing technology has evolved to enable great precision in the prediction of resulting rock behavior and incorporates multiple safeguards to protect the surrounding environment, including groundwater.
The use of hydraulic fracturing to improve the recoveries from hydrocarbon deposits has a long history dating back to 1949.