Growth in US shale technology to increase production in five years

07 March 2012 17:42  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The US shale game has developed and matured over five years with an array of technological innovations to increase efficiency and production, and the industry is still learning, industry executives said on Tuesday.

“It’s taken 100 years to define exploration and production of oil, and we’ve only had five years to define exploration and production of shale,” said President and CEO Steven Mueller with Southwestern Energy.

QEP Resources president and CEO Charles Stanley added that production of natural gas of gas from shale has dramatically increased over a short period, and technology has improved dramatically as well.

It took QEP an average of 32 days to drill a well last year in the Haynesville Shale region, which is located in western Louisiana and northeast Texas, compared with an average of 66 days in 2009, Stanley said.

In addition, well productivity has improved through multi-stage fracturing of the rock, often known as fracking.

Mueller said that in 2005, the industry used four to five fracturing stages, with a maximum of eight stages. This increased to an average of 12 stages in 2009 with a maximum of 24 stages. Finally, in 2011 the industry averaged about 20 stages of fracturing, with a maximum of 40 stages, said Mueller.

Each stage of fracturing uses water, proppant – sand or manmade ceramics – and stimulation chemicals to release the natural gas or oil molecules and bring them to the surface.

The US imported natural gas in the past decade, but as production of shale gas advanced and flow of the hydrocarbons increased, supply is now outpacing demand by about 500bn cubic feet, said Mueller.

Demand also rose, especially as natural gas prices fell, although the increase in demand has not matched the rapid flow of production, said Stanley.

US oilfield services company Baker Hughes remarked that there will be further developments over time and the production of shale will soon be much less resource intensive, relying on less water and chemicals and proppants.

“We’re only five years into the shale game, and for all intents and purposes, we’re only in primary recovery, so we don’t know what secondary and tertiary recovery looks like,” said Baker Hughes president of western hemisphere operations Derek Mathieson.

By: Sheena Martin
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