Spectrum: Myths and Realities About Hydraulic Fracturing
- Ganesh Thakur (2012 SPE President)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- March 2012
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 14 - 15
- 2012. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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These days it is hard to open a technical magazine or news-paper without reading something on the topic of hydraulic fracturing, especially in the US.
Hydraulic fracturing—variously “fracing” or “fracking” nowadays (the controversy rages)—has been used by the industry for more than 60 years. Although the technique was seen worldwide, the first 30 years were primarily focused on North America but the last 30 years have seen a proliferation in its application to many new reservoir types as a means to maximize resource value. It is now seen in high-permeability oil fields in Alaska, the North Sea, and Russia; unconsolidated formations in the Gulf of Mexico and Santos Basin; and unconventional resources such as shale and coalbed methane developments.
Advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology have transformed the natural gas supply in North America. With the advent of technology and know-how, the US is primed to become a gas exporter. According to a recent article in The Economist, the gas potential in Europe is similar, with an estimated “639 Tcf of technically recoverable shale gas compare to 862 Tcf in America.”1 But the regulations in Europe are more stern, the environments more geologically challenging, and reserves come at a higher cost of extraction.
Even with years of successful application and the huge potential for reserves, there are a lot of misconceptions about and opposition to the process. Unfortunately, until very recently, little has been done to educate the public and governments.
What role can SPE play in this issue? Simply, through education and the dissemination of transparent factual information. With our membership at more than 104,000 members in 123 countries, we are well positioned to help clear up the myths and shine light on the realities of this important issue. SPE facilitates best practice sharing through conferences, Applied Technology Workshops, Technical Information Groups, and publication of technical journals. In the spirit of enhancing collaboration, SPE takes a step further and exerts a special effort to hold conferences jointly with the other industry professional societies.
In 2011, SPE held its first SPE Technical Summit, which addressed the topic “Hydraulic Fracturing: Ensuring Ground Water Protection,” and resulted in a white paper based on the discussions.2 And as I write this column, SPE is hosting its fourth Hydraulic Fracturing Technology Conference in The Woodlands, Texas. The program committee chairperson, Dan Hill with Texas A&M University, commented on the importance of the conference: “As the enabling technology for the development of vast unconventional resources, hydraulic fracturing continues to increase in prominence in petroleum engineering, making this conference a critically important event for our industry. SPE plays a vital role in facilitating the right people, place, and atmosphere to discuss and document best practices for the industry.”
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