SPE DL: The Truth About Hydraulic Fracturing - Its More Complicated Than We Would Like to Admit

Thursday, 18 May 2006 Read 4717 times
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Hydraulic fracturing has been routinely applied for many decades now, with mostly positive economic results. However, our understanding of hydraulic fracturing was quite limited until relatively recent advancements in technology allowed engineers to see what hydraulic fractures really look like and better understand what governs fracture growth and well performance. The introduction of tiltmeter and microseismic fracture mapping, along with advances in tracer technology, now provides our industry with the tools to truly understand fracture growth. But as with all newly acquired knowledge, it is often difficult to fully evaluate the implications of the information and reap the economic benefits.  Too often, engineers focus on one aspect of hydraulic fracturing, such as fracture modeling or performance evaluation and now maybe even fracture mapping – resulting in at best a limited understanding of how to improve future treatments and many times miss-diagnosing critical problems. This approach often times leads to inappropriate, sometime costly changes in hydraulic fracture designs and field development strategies.  However, by utilizing and fully integrating fracture treatment, production, well test, geological, and fracture mapping information, the right designs changes and better field development strategies can be implemented – thus realizing the economic benefits that technology AND engineering have to offer. To illustrate this process, several examples are presented that document how utilizing a number of independent technologies and integrating their results can lead to a much better understanding of fracture and overall field performance, resulting in changes to both treatment designs and field development practices that significantly improve production economics. Conversely, the pit-falls of a myopic approach to hydraulic fracturing are also illustrated. The case histories presented will illustrate that the appropriate technologies to apply depend on the questions you need to answer, the cost of the technologies and the potential benefits, and the economic environment.


Pinnacle Technologies - Vice President Engineering Services                                 

Mr. Cipolla has over 20 years experience focused on hydraulic fracturing. Craig directs Pinnacle’s engineering services group, providing technical support to both fracture mapping and consulting projects. In addition to managing projects and supervising personnel, Craig’s responsibilities include the design and evaluation of hydraulic fracturing treatments, training engineers in the use of “real-time” data analysis, reservoir engineering, integrated field studies, and supervising stimulation treatments. In addition, Craig is an expert in the application of fracture mapping technologies to optimize treatment designs and field development strategies. Craig’s worldwide experience includes work in the US, Canada, Mexico, South East Asia, North Sea, West Africa, Australia, Russia, and the People’s Republic of China. Prior to joining Pinnacle in 1996, Craig worked for Union Pacific Resources, where his responsibilities included integrated field studies, economic evaluation and acquisition of oil and gas properties, fracturing technology, and engineering support of exploration and infill drilling programs.  Since joining Pinnacle in 1996, Mr. Cipolla has worked extensively applying state-of-the-art fracture technology worldwide, including the application of tiltmeter and microseismic fracture mapping to directly measure fracture geometry and the integration of well testing, reservoir simulation, and fracture modeling to evaluate & optimize hydraulic fracture treatments and field development. He is currently serving on the SPE Well Stimulation committee and was a member of the SPE Completions committee from 1994-1997. He also served as the technical advisor for the JPT Well Stimulation feature from 2000-2003. Mr. Cipolla was a member of the 1992 SPE Gas Reservoir Engineering Forum committee and the 1998 SPE Hydraulic Fracture Diagnostics Methods Forum committee. Mr. Cipolla has authored 34 technical papers and conducted numerous presentations in conjunction with the Society of Petroleum Engineers, Gas Research Institute, Department of Energy, and other petroleum industry organizations.

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