Production costs of natural gas from unconventional fields could tumble in the United States if a new technique developed by Schlumberger lives up to its billing.
The world’s largest oilfield services company by market value and others working in the industry have suffered this year because the runaway success of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling techniques to extract so-called unconventional gas has created a glut and caused a price slide.
But using a proprietary system called Hiway that only became commercially viable last year, Schlumberger’s fracker in chief believes he has knocked a lump out of the infant industry’s three major cost components; water, sand, and trucks…
Less sand, less water and less pumping adds up to fewer trucks, Kyel Hodenfield explained on the sidelines of the Offshore Northern Seas (ONS) conference in Stavanger, Norway.
“Those are the big costs. Anything you can do to reduce the amount of sand, the amount of water, and the amount of horsepower is going to fall to the bottom line…”
Hodenfield, who grew up in North Dakota where the Bakken field is at the centre of the U.S. shale gas boom, brightens at the opportunity to explain a process that adds a proprietary fiber to the traditional sand and fluid mix, and uses a “pulsing” system to send globs of the fiber in between each injection.
The dissolvable fiber globs create more effective channels for the gas to flow, and the pulsing rhythm can be made to match the geological structure of the rock, also pushing the sand deeper into the cracks and resulting in more effective openings that conduct gas better for every liter pumped in…
Hodenfield says smarter technology is also the key to reducing the environmental impact of fracking in shale rock, tight gas, coal bed methane and other unconventional gas fields.
“We have a choice,” he said. “We can take the brute force approach and drill a lot of wells and frack a lot of wells and live with the production variation and compensate that by drilling even more wells (with the consequent environmental footprint), or you drill only the best wells by defining the sweet spot and optimize the completion by technology.”
BITD, I always wanted to go to work for Schlumberger. They’ve always been the smartest guys in the oil field. They ran the cleanest job sites – and that is a for-real reflection of their attitude towards environmental questions.
And natural gas is the best choice we have for converting existing power sources running on fossil fuel. It’s the most cost-efficient conversion process, the cheapest of the fossil fuels and pollution diminishes by half or more. And the United States has beaucoup natural gas.
I know one local enviro driving a production Honda that runs on NatGas. His mileage is as good as ever and he pays the equivalent of $1.61 a gallon for the good stuff.