Technology Update: Manufacturing Approach to Fracturing Limits Environmental Impact
- _ JPT staff (_)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- March 2006
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 20 - 22
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In the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming, a manufacturing approach is being developed to enable fracture stimulation of hundreds of gas wells from one semipermanent location that can operate around the clock. This development is in response to the area’s unconventional gas fields that offer unique environmental, social, and operational challenges. Fig. 1 shows this concept, called FracFactory service, in schematic form.
Fig. 2 illustrates that the FracFactory service concept is appreciably different from the conventional layout of a frac spread. For every well treated, the conventional frac-equipment spread is transported from a logistical base directly to the location, set up for operation, broken down after the stimulation job is completed, and transported back to the base/satellite storage facility. The process is repeated for every well treated, with potentially significant impact to the environment, resources, and required man-hours. This is the current practice across the industry.
To help reduce the environmental footprint, many wells can be drilled in clusters from a single location. Surface piping can be installed to provide a conduit for the frac fluid from the FracFactory service facility to the well cluster for placement downhole. An efficient system of manifolding at each well cluster completes the connection from the pressure pumps to the appropriate wellhead. Fig. 3 shows the concept in greater detail—supplies, crew quarters, pumping and blending gear, and water reclamation equipment within a single footprint. High-pressure pumping is housed nearby in an enclosure designed to reduce the noise level for the crew and the surrounding local environment.
Opportunities Wrapped in Challenges
Recent authorizations to drill for gas on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands has handed E&P companies and service companies an opportunity wrapped tightly in a number of challenges. Companies must:
- Operate with a small footprint on the mountains and prairie valleys of Wyoming.
- Avoid lowering the water table to supply fluids required in fracture stimulation of production from unconventional (tight) reservoirs.
- Avoid creating excessive traffic on local roads and across lands that are home to numerous game animals.
- Protect aquifers from contamination.
- Provide efficient well-stimulation operations with minimal non-productive time caused by the logistics concerned.
The Rockies are believed to hold enough gas to heat and cool 70 million homes for nearly 50 years, but reserves are located in hard-to-produce reservoirs. Because the U.S. government controls so much of the land in this part of the country, oil and gas producers have flooded BLM with applications for drill permits. One major operating company plans to spend about U.S. $2.2 billion in the next 15 years to drill 2,000 wells in Wyoming’s Wamsutter field. In fiscal 2004, BLM approved 5,747 drilling applications to drill on public lands in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Montana, up four-fold from the industry slump in 1999.
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