Energy firms set sights on 'super fracking'

Energy firms set sights on 'super fracking'

Postby Oscar » Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:29 pm

Energy firms set sights on 'super fracking'

But bigger cracks to boost oil, gas flow raise concerns


As regulators and environmentalists study whether hydraulic fracturing can damage the environment, industry scientists are studying ways to create longer, deeper cracks in the earth to release more oil and natural gas.

Energy companies are focused on boosting production and lowering costs associated with so-called fracking, which uses high-pressure injections of water, sand and chemicals to break apart petroleum-saturated rock.

The more thoroughly the rock is cracked, the more oil and gas will flow.

The world's largest oilfield service providers are leading the search for new technologies, with some companies focused on splintering the rock into a web of tiny fissures, and others seeking to create larger crevices in the richest zones.

"I want to crack the rock across as much of the reservoir as I can," said David Pursell, a former fracking engineer who's now an analyst at Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. in Houston. "That's the Holy Grail."

More aggressive fracking may heighten concerns about the risks associated with shale development, said Kirk Sherr, president of Register Larkin Energy North America, an industry consultant.

"If critics already think fracking is bad, theoretically, super fracking would be super bad," Sherr said.

The technique also has raised concerns about excessive water consumption because of the millions of litres needed to frank each well.

Baker Hughes Inc. has set its sights on "super cracks," a method of blasting deeper into dense rock to create wider channels to funnel more oil and gas. The aim for the technology, branded "DirectConnect," is to concentrate fracking power to target oil or gas buried deeper in the formation. The product is being field tested by select customers, said Rustom Mody, vicepresident of technology at Baker Hughes.

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To speed up the process and reduce costs, Baker Hughes has developed disintegrating frack balls. Wells are flacked in stages, and companies drop down plastic balls to plug the well bore at various stages and isolate zones for fracking. It can take several days to get a rig out to the site and fish out conventional frack balls used over the course of 20 or 30 stages in a well before production can begin.

Baker Hughes's invention disintegrates, turning the balls into powder "like an Alka-Seltzer" tablet after about half a day, Mody said.

Halliburton Co. is developing a plan it calls "frack of the future" that offers better technology in addition to speeding up and increasing production, the company says.

Halliburton's contribution is called Rapid-Frac, a series of sliding sleeves that open throughout the horizontal well bore to isolate zones for fracking.
Sliding sleeves are different from the other main type of fracking technique, which sends an explosive charge down the well bore to blast a hole in the casing. In both techniques, fracking fluid is then injected at high pressure
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