By David Wethe
January 19, 2012
Oil service companies roll out new technologies to break up more earth more cheaply
Photograph by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Undeterred, oil services companies including Baker Hughes and Schlumberger are continuing their quest to devise ways to create longer, deeper cracks in the earth to release more oil and gas. These companies are no longer content to frack—they want to super frack.
High crude prices and newly accessible oil and gas embedded in shale rock in North America are driving the wave of innovation. The more thoroughly that petroleum-saturated rock is cracked, the more oil and gas is freed to flow from each well, raising the efficiency—and profit—of the expensive process. For example, the growing use of movable sleeves, a tubelike device with holes that fits inside a well bore, lets drillers target multiple spots to dislodge entrapped oil. This technique can reduce the $2.5 million startup cost of a fracking well near the Canadian border by up to two-thirds, according to a recent analysis by JPMorgan Chase.
Multiply such savings by hundreds of wells added in that area each year, and you start to understand why the industry is so eager to hone the process. “I want to crack the rock across as much of the reservoir as I can,” says David A. Pursell, a former fracking engineer who’s now an analyst at Tudor Pickering Holt in Houston. “That’s the Holy Grail.”
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