Hydraulic Fracturing: The State of the Art
By Michael J. Economides
Fundamentally, propped hydraulic fracturing is a process used to make oil and gas wells produce oil and gas faster. It does not create hydrocarbons or increase formation permeability – it simply makes wells produce existing reserves more quickly. In almost all cases in North America and many other parts of the world with long history of oil and gas production, hydraulic fracturing means the difference between an economic and a sub-economic well.
It took many years for the industry to realize that, by pumping hydraulic pressure into a subsurface hydrocarbon filled rock, one could create a crack that would make it much easier for oil, or gas, to flow out of the rock. Today virtually all wells require this process to produce commercial quantities of gas (or oil). It has taken the industry the last 20 years to figure out that horizontal wellbores combined with hydraulic fracturing are the key to producing commercial quantities of natural gas from shale formations.
This realization, combined with advancements in the ability to pump multiple fracture treatments in tight rock and shale formations has led to a huge boom in gas production. Shale and tight gas now account for over 2/3 of the daily gas produced in the United States, and this has led to 87% of US natural gas supply to be produced domestically. It is important to realize that this gas production wouldn’t be possible without hydraulic fracturing. (Energy Tribune)