Hydraulic Fracturing

Schematic of the Hydraulic Fracturing Process

What is Hydraulic Fracturing?

Hydraulic fracturing is the process of injecting a pressurized fluid into an oil or gas formation and fracturing rock, thus encouraging product (oil, gas, brine was, petroleum, etc.) to move into the well. The cracks or fractures are very small, typically less than 1mm in size. The term is commonly referred to as "frac" or "fracking". Typical solutions for hydraulic fracturing may include water mixed with sand and chemicals. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), hydraulic fracturing is a process to stimulate natural gas, oil, or geothermal energy well to maximize the extraction. This can also include the acquisition of source water, well stimulation, waste disposal and well construction.

Why Hydraulic Fracturing?

When wells start to slow or stop producing as consistently as they were, well stimulation is a tactic commonly used to revive them. Fracking a prolongs the well productivity and enhances fluid removal. Fracking allows access to materials and pockets that are not accessible in any other manner. Nearly all natural gas wells involve hydraulic fracturing because it increasing production immensely. Fracking is able to access hydrocarbons that are inaccessible by other means of stimulation. This is a common practice among most oil companies.

How does Hydraulic Fracturing work?

The process begins by pumping fracking fluid into the wellbore. A target area is determined beforehand by the location of the well casing perforations, and fluid is pumped to increase the pressure downhole. The pressure pumped exceeds that of the fracture/pressure gradient of the rock. The operators carefully monitor pressure, fluid, and fracture size to protect the formation and achieve the desired result: increased production. The pumping fluid usually has sand or other particulates mixed in so after fluid is removed the fractures remain open. Hydraulic fracturing is performed in cased wellbores, and target zones are access by perforating the casing.

Oil companies typically hire specialized companies to access target zones by hydraulic fracturing. These companies use exclusive high pressure, high volume fracturing pumps to perform their services. These are powerful triplex or quintuplex pumps accompanied with monitoring systems. They also use tanks to transport the fracturing fluids, and a variety of hoses and gauges to monitor pressure, depth and flow rate.

Hiring a reputable hydraulic fracturing company is important because it is a delicate process that is not for the amateur. Without proper care and monitoring, entire fields can be affected by poor fracturing. With the right team, wells can produce more than ever and for years to come.