The process of hydraulic fracturing has transformed the oil and gas industry and it has proved to be a lucrative venture for a number of people who decided to take the plunge and set up their own frac business.
If you already have some experience of working in the frac industry you will no doubt be aware that this is a venture that requires careful planning, a fair amount of expertise, and a reasonable amount of capital backing to make it happen.
You can obviously buy in the expertise to fill the gaps in your knowledge when you get started but, in the meantime, here is a general overview of the key points about running a frac site that you need to know.
A brief explanation of hydraulic fracturing
Fracking describes the process of hydraulic fracturing and it is a method that has been developed in order to successfully extract oil and gas from shale rock.
It is likely that each frac site will be set up and run in a similar fashion and all operators will follow the same process, which mainly involves drilling deep a long way down into the earth, in preparation for injecting sand, water, and chemicals into the rock at high pressure.
The end result of this process is that it creates a way for the gas to flow out and travel to the top of the well so that it can be collected and stored.
It is not hard to see why the process is described as fracking is as it aptly describes the method used to fracture the rock using a high-pressure cocktail of chemicals, sand, and water.
You will need a lot of water
A key point to take on board when you are setting up your frac business is the fact that you will need access to a considerable volume of water in order for your site to operate successfully.
To give you some idea, you would be able to fill an Olympic-sized pool many times over, and in addition to that heavy water requirement, you will also need a large supply of chemical additives and sand.
Water is an essential component of your frac business and you will need to be able to have this supply so that it can be pumped into the shale rocks which are located approximately two to three kilometres below the surface.
Before you can start drilling
You actually have a number of different drilling options and it will down to you to work out which one is the most suitable based on the site layout and logistical challenges relevant to the site.
It is often the case that you are not ready to start to commence full drilling operations for some while, as you need to carry out site surveys and get all the required permits in place beforehand.
It is often a good idea to secure the location first of all by locking in the lease on the land and drilling one well to confirm your intention to commence larger scale fracking at some point.
Another option to consider would be to start your operation by drilling the vertical positions of all of your proposed wells using a smaller rig.
The standard fracking procedure tends to involve drilling down to what is referred to as the kick-off-point. This is the level where the curved section will begin.
After you have done this, the next step in the process would be to follow up with a much larger rig that has the ability to drill the turn to a horizontal position that covers the full length of the horizontal bore.
One other option to consider would be to use a large drill rig which has the capacity to be able to complete both the horizontal and vertical wells required at the same time.
It is highly likely that the drilling strategy you deploy will be dictated by the size of the plot of land that you are working on.
After you have successfully completed the drilling process and the well is ready for extraction, the next step is to case and cement it.
Be mindful of the need for water storage and sand deliveries
As already outlined, your frac business will be highly dependent on having consistent access to an ample supply of sand and water, as these are critical ingredients in the fracking procedure.
You will need to think carefully about storage options and, ideally, you want these to be located as near to the drill pad as possible.
For details about sand deliveries and to get an idea of costs you might want to visit AlpineSilica.com for further details.
Your water supply dependency is at its highest during the hydraulic fracturing stage and this is the point where you will require the largest volume of water.
There are several ways to accommodate this demand.
Bear in mind that the average frac site will have a requirement for somewhere between four and six million gallons of water and that means you are going to have to find room for storage tanks that are capable of holding that volume of water.
if that is not possible, given the logistics of the site, you will probably have to look at how you can gain access to the water you need from a high-volume pipe source close by.
Alternatively, you can check to see if there is the option to be able to create a freshwater impoundment close that is as close to the drill pad as possible.
Arranging the Hydraulic fracturing equipment and supplies you need
In view of the fact that it requires a fair amount of specialist equipment to carry out the fracking procedure successfully it is fairly standard practice in the industry to appoint a fracturing contractor, who will be able to provide most of the equipment required for the job.
The equipment list mainly consists of sand mixers, a wireline truck, together with an appropriate control centre that will be used to oversee the operation.
You will also need to be prepared for a high volume of tractor-trailer trucks or sand cans that will be regularly delivering sand to the frac site. This sand is normally sourced from locations where silica sand is available in large quantities, hence the need for transportation.
You also need to be mindful that you will be working with hydrochloric acid on-site, which is used in the acidizing element of hydraulic fracturing. This is the process that involves pumping acid directly into the formations so that it helps to facilitate the flow of fluid and gas.
You will need to be using storage tanks to accommodate condensate, which is also referred to as natural gas liquids. This requires a great deal of care and diligence as these are very volatile and explosive liquids that you will be handling.
A typical safety precaution would be to use telemetry and wireless sensors in order to monitor pressure levels on the wellheads as well as the storage tanks.
You will also have to give a lot of thought to how you are going to contend with the waste products that are created as part of the shale gas extraction process.
This waste includes flow back and brine, together with a volume of sludge that will have accumulated at the bottom of the tanks
As you can see, there is a lot to organize and take in if you are going to start a frac business, but the rewards are there for all to see if you get it right.