Reducing Fluid Use During Hydraulic Fracturing Operations


When conducting hydraulic fracturing operations in shale plays a combination of water, sand and a strategic amount of chemical additives are injected at high pressure through a wellbore to target low permeability rock formations. The injected fluid creates small cracks in the rock, allowing natural gas or oil to flow to the surface.

In recent years, there has been a growing social pressure placed upon O&G operators to reduce their environmental footprint. Accordingly, operators have been mindful to place a greater emphasis upon using less fluid for the sake of water conservation (and with the added benefit of reducing costs).

Putting water usage into perspective, horizontal wells can require as much as 5,000,000 gallons of water depending on the lateral length and number of hydraulic fracturing stages being utilized. The inherent requirement for large volumes of water creates a challenge to attempt to innovate systems that accommodate operational needs while implementing water conservation solutions.

Challenging the Status Quo

Normally, in order to fracture a stage with plug and perf, techniques (PnP) the procedure requires an operator to pump down a plug and set it in the lateral section of the casing below an interval (stage) to be perforated. This requires displacement of one entire wellbore volume, extending all the way from the surface to the depth of the stage.

As a specific example, in a 5 ½ inch casing at 17,500 ft this would equate to approximately 370 bbl of fluid (15,500 gallons) for each wellbore displacement.

Once the plug has been set, the electric line perforating guns are released from the plug and the designated perforation intervals (clusters) for that pumping stage are perforated. But in order to initiate a hydraulic fracture, in most cases a ball must be pumped downhole to seal against the top of the hollow body plug. This requires a second entire wellbore volume of fluid displacement (another 370 bbl or 15,500 gallons). After the ball is pumped onto the plug seat the stimulation treatment can then be pumped into the formation through the perforations exposed above the plug.

This multiple step process is repeated for every stage in the well, consuming more fluid resources and at a greater cost to the bottom line.

The Stage Completions Difference

With Stage Completions systems, the process is simplified in the name of efficiency. The SC Bowhead II is engineered so that there is no need for an initial pump down trip to set a plug, a second pump down trip to seat a ball is eliminated and no electric line perforating is required. Coiled Tubing is not needed to activate Stage’s sleeves. To open up a Stage Completions system sleeve, operators simply need to pump down the collet to the desired depth, which only requires the use of a single wellbore volume.

If the collet is promptly chased by a fracturing treatment, then a hydraulic fracture can be initiated right away after opening the sleeve, which mitigates wasting any fluid. Subsequent collets can be launched and displaced as part of the “flush” portion of the fracturing treatment for the previous zone, making the fracking operation almost continuous from stage to stage, which greatly reduces the total water volume required to complete a particular operation.

In addition to promoting responsible water management, the SC Bowhead II enables operators to have the capability for longer laterals and more stages, which drives high utility of capital and increased EUR’s (Estimated Ultimate Recovery).

Forward-Thinking Industry Leaders Recognize the Advantages of Single-Point Entry Technologies

The evidence is clear that single-point entry completion technology offers decisive technical advantages for drilling operators mindful of environmental impact. No other technology on the horizon is geared toward planning and optimizing wells with the kind of control and predictability single-point entry practices can offer in terms of efficiency.

The innovations that Stage Completions systems provide has resulted in potential cost reductions for fracturing operations. And a number of operators have experienced better real time control during pumping operations, and more accurate treatment modeling has translated itself into improved production results across the board. The trending emphasis on choosing the best completion practice for each well application should encourage the industry to collectively give serious consideration to these systems.  

As the global demand for fracking continues to climb, operators will have to innovate to meet new challenges in the field and to the bottomline of doing business as they emerge. Stage Completions seeks to be an innovator on global terms, able to impact the industry and sustainability of our world as a whole with forward thinking initiatives that have the potential to become industry standards.

About this Blog

In this blog, we hope to engage the oil and gas community with information about multistage fracturing. We think analyzing and offering our expertise about the ways our industry is evolving will help others seek the most innovative technologies and practices as they become available. If there’s a subject you’d like to know more about, please let us know. Thank you for joining us in the conversation.