Innovation and ingenuity are the foundation of the oil and natural gas industry. Today, the average U.S. well is four to six times more productive and efficient. As a result, oil and natural gas production increased 82 percent and 43 percent respectively between 2006 and 2016. The shale revolution, the result of some of the biggest technological breakthroughs in a generation, has transformed global energy security and ushered in a manufacturing renaissance in the United States.
In addition to creating new and innovative technology to make our operations safer and more efficient, we have also adapted existing technology from other industries. For instance, MRI applications originally developed for diagnostic medicine are now used to map rock formations during seismic surveying. The oil and natural gas industry is no stranger to partnerships, working with NASA and other innovative industries.
The history of hydraulic fracturing in the United States dates back to 1947 and has been used safely in more than 1.2 million wells. Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping fluid into reservoirs to artificially induce small fractures. This process increases pathways and exposure between the wellbore and the surrounding reservoir rock, enhancing the productivity and hydrocarbon recovery of each well.
Fracture stimulation fluid is typically comprised of over 99% water and sand. The remaining fluid consists of chemical additives that optimize placement and production from the reservoir. In conjunction with our service providers, we periodically review these chemical additives, switching to green additives, which are often food-grade materials, and using other treatment processes, such as ultraviolet treatment for bacteria, whenever possible.
For more information about the process of hydraulic fracturing, please visit FracFocus, which describes many aspects of the technology and process, including well design and integrity, well pad equipment, resource depth and water management.
Drones in the Field and Other Unmanned Vehicles
The first commercial drone license was awarded to the oil and natural gas industry. Drones have a number of significant applications, including enhanced monitoring and safety in oil and natural gas operations. Employees can view real-time video transmitted from a drone, and companies can build applications that capture and store relevant data. Drones can also be used to track and observe wildlife to further minimize potential impacts on species in the area. And they have helped drive down the cost of production and increase efficiencies.
3D Seismic Imaging
3D seismic imaging technology allows us to more accurately predict the size and location of oil and natural gas reservoirs. This high-resolution imaging makes oil and natural gas drilling safer, more precise and productive today than it was just a few years ago.
3D seismic imaging is a tool that bounces sound waves off underground rock structures to reveal possible hydrocarbon bearing formations. Seismologists use ultrasensitive devices, called geophones, to record the sound waves as they echo within the earth. By studying the echoes, petroleum geologists seek to calculate the depth and structures of buried geologic formations. This analysis may help them identify oil and natural gas-bearing reservoirs hidden beneath the earth’s surface.
Sophisticated 3D imaging creates high-definition pictures of subsurface geology. The result is similar to an X-ray scan or medical sonogram that covers thousands of square miles and extends 10 miles (16 km) or more into the earth.
Hydraulic Fracturing and Horizontal Drilling: How They Work
Horizontal drilling is a process in which, after a well is vertically drilled to a depth of one to two miles, operators use great precision to gradually turn the drill bit and continue along a horizontal plane. This allows us to reach more of the area where recoverable oil and natural gas is located, while minimizing our impact on the surface. Horizontal drilling allows us the ability to drill more than 20 wells from a single well pad site. Coupled with the industry’s land remediation practices, the footprint on the land is not only drastically reduced, but industry operations are markedly more efficient.
This technology, combined with hydraulic fracturing, has spurred a major shift in the global energy paradigm and rapidly established the U.S. as the world’s newest energy superpower.
The industry has shifted dramatically over the past decade toward digitization. Going digital has changed the way our society does many things, from enhanced diagnostic medicine to effective supply chain management. The oil and natural gas industry has made huge strides in digitizing our operations from start to finish, changing the way our workforce operates to lock-in high performance rates via accurate, real-time assessments. Organizational agility is a hallmark of going digital, both in technical and non-technical practices. The digital transformation has substantially contributed to improvements in productivity, reducing costs while increasing efficiency through the capture and aggregation of data and use of advanced analytics. Thanks to this, we’re able to enhance extraction performance continually and deliver consistent outcomes by reducing the rate of operational failure and production downtime.