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Tom Kirkman

A Brief History of Fracking

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A great graphic overview of the history of fracking.  Technical enough to make it absorbing to read, and the engineering concepts are explained (and shown) clearly enough for people outside of the industry to understand.

Not the usual pro or con hype about the economics of fracking.  A nice, solid read; emphasis on the practical, historical engineering developments over the years.

A Brief History of Fracking

... 1860s

The process of fracturing to activate shallow, hard rock wells dates back to the 1860s. The first fracking-related patent for an ‘oil well torpedo’ was filed in April 1865 by Edward Roberts, who went on to found a company which specialised in ‘shooting the well’. To put this innovation into context, the first productive oil well in the United States had only been drilled less than a decade previously in 1858, so Roberts, a Civil War veteran, was well ahead of the still developing industry.
Edward Roberts, inventor of the oil well torpedo, a proto-form of fracking.
(Edward Roberts, inventor of the oil well torpedo, a proto-form of fracking. Image via the American Oil & Gas Historical Society).

Roberts quickly figured out that simply fracturing the rock wasn’t sufficient. He began using an additional process called ‘fluid tamping’, effectively filling the borehole with water. According to the Seismological Society of America, “The technique had an immediate impact - production from some wells increased 1,200 percent within a week of being shot.” Although the scale and technique has evolved since Roberts, the basic principle of fracking remains the same to this today according to the Society.

 

1947

The immediate post-war period saw the birth of modern-day fracking. ...

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Well the next evolution will likely be double fracking, basically pump a Super-heated fluid whether  is Steam or Carbon Dioxide, heat the shale rock to 500°C or 700°C and extract the Oil and Gas doing mother's nature job of converting Kerogen into tight oil and gas, hopefully the tech will be strong in 10 or 20 years.

Chevron_Oil_Shale_Project.PNG

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How long would the rock need to soak at these temperatures to turn the Kerogen into oil or gas?

What would be the cost of heating this C02 or steam to 500-700 deg C and pumping it? Would new storage and pumping equipment be required to handle the elevated temperatures? Keep in mind these systems must be mobile as opposed to an EOR application.

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6 minutes ago, Douglas Buckland said:

How long would the rock need to soak at these temperatures to turn the Kerogen into oil or gas?

What would be the cost of heating this C02 or steam to 500-700 deg C and pumping it? Would new storage and pumping equipment be required to handle the elevated temperatures? Keep in mind these systems must be mobile as opposed to an EOR application. 

Well, a lot, the Chevron Crush Fracking system can take around 2 years  to heat up the rock enough to produce oil and gas.

Generally the energy consumption is around 1 Barrell of oil for every 10 barrels produced, a oil well that can produce let's say, 100,000 Barells a day of combined oil and gas (let's say 50,000bbl of oil and 50,000bbl of gas) is going to consume between 850MW and  1GW of thermal power to heat the CO2, One of the proposals of many people is to use very-high-temperature nuclear reactors to heat the CO2

here's a more detailed and technical paper

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b495/7cc2e135eadde3138f59049b17ad6c08ea73.pdf

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Time is money. What is the maintenance cost to keep this system running for two years while the rock heats up?

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Don't know how much it costs to maintain the system running before producing any oil since most of the tech is still experimental and they don't expect commercialization until 2030 or 2040, but the electricity bill should be around 220 million dollars for a hypothetical 100,000BBL field .

The drilling costs likely are 2 times as high as with Tight Oil plays today, since you need a well to inject the Superheated CO2, or steam and then another well to extract the oil and gas, and a recondensing system to reuse your carbon dioxide, however a Oil Shale system should produce much more for a longer period of time than a the more conventional tight oil system we use today.

Chevron, Shell, and Exxon said in 2008 that with enough development the break-even oil price would be between 15 and 40 dollars a barrel, in 2008 the break-even price of Oil Shale was similar to Tight Oil, between 125 and 140 dollars per barrel.

The biggest advantage of these expensive and overly engineered systems is that while The US has nearly 623 Billion barrels of tight oil, it can have north of 65 trillion barrels with the Oil Shale pyrolisis method.

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6 hours ago, Sebastian Meana said:

Don't know how much it costs to maintain the system running before producing any oil since most of the tech is still experimental and they don't expect commercialization until 2030 or 2040, but the electricity bill should be around 220 million dollars for a hypothetical 100,000BBL field .

The drilling costs likely are 2 times as high as with Tight Oil plays today, since you need a well to inject the Superheated CO2, or steam and then another well to extract the oil and gas, and a recondensing system to reuse your carbon dioxide, however a Oil Shale system should produce much more for a longer period of time than a the more conventional tight oil system we use today.

Chevron, Shell, and Exxon said in 2008 that with enough development the break-even oil price would be between 15 and 40 dollars a barrel, in 2008 the break-even price of Oil Shale was similar to Tight Oil, between 125 and 140 dollars per barrel.

The biggest advantage of these expensive and overly engineered systems is that while The US has nearly 623 Billion barrels of tight oil, it can have north of 65 trillion barrels with the Oil Shale pyrolisis method.

Sebastian, pleased to meet you. I was at the oil shale symposium when that slide was presented. We shouldn't confuse the oil shale (which is really marlstone) with shale oil. The Green River formation is full of kerogen rich marlstone, which must be heated to pyrolisis temperature to convert from the precursor (kerogen) state to crude.

Shale oil, on the other hand is mostly mature oil in extremely tight formations with poor permeability. In fact, my company (and others) has demonstrated that heating carbonates to sufficient temperatures will "rubble-ize" the rock, even under severe pressures, causing the fractures the graphic illustrates. The optimum temperature to do this is below pyrolisis temp, so the costs go down a bit. 

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Wasn't something similar to this attempted decades ago in Parachute, Colorado?

Parachute is essentially a ghost town now, I believe.

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22 hours ago, Tom Kirkman said:

A great graphic overview of the history of fracking.  Technical enough to make it absorbing to read, and the engineering concepts are explained (and shown) clearly enough for people outside of the industry to understand.

Not the usual pro or con hype about the economics of fracking.  A nice, solid read; emphasis on the practical, historical engineering developments over the years.

A Brief History of Fracking

... 1860s

The process of fracturing to activate shallow, hard rock wells dates back to the 1860s. The first fracking-related patent for an ‘oil well torpedo’ was filed in April 1865 by Edward Roberts, who went on to found a company which specialised in ‘shooting the well’. To put this innovation into context, the first productive oil well in the United States had only been drilled less than a decade previously in 1858, so Roberts, a Civil War veteran, was well ahead of the still developing industry.
Edward Roberts, inventor of the oil well torpedo, a proto-form of fracking.
(Edward Roberts, inventor of the oil well torpedo, a proto-form of fracking. Image via the American Oil & Gas Historical Society).

Roberts quickly figured out that simply fracturing the rock wasn’t sufficient. He began using an additional process called ‘fluid tamping’, effectively filling the borehole with water. According to the Seismological Society of America, “The technique had an immediate impact - production from some wells increased 1,200 percent within a week of being shot.” Although the scale and technique has evolved since Roberts, the basic principle of fracking remains the same to this today according to the Society.

 

1947

The immediate post-war period saw the birth of modern-day fracking. ...

 

...and then there was nuclear 'fracking'!

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Gasbuggy

 

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This is very interesting stuff! I was always under the impression that the transformation (transmutation?) of kerogen to mature oil took a very long time and it was easy to "cook" the stuff.

I'm sure you all know about the history of fracking in more depth than I. However, the Hugoton Oil Field of southwestern Kansas was just to the north of where I grew up. My grandfather had the first deep well drilled on his place. He taught me how to recognize well bore specimens and a lot of history, though he was not an educated man. 

It stuck with me. Some time in the late forties they used gelled gasoline or diesel to "frack" a well in the Hugoton, which was a going-Jessie at the time. As I recall, they hadn't slurried their drilling mud enough. Drilling mud is mostly selenium and it will turn into one stubborn mess of goo. They tried flushing it with water pumped from the nearby river, then added the gelled petroleum mix down the hole. That stuff--benzene and diesel at first--was actually just primitive Napalm. Well, it worked. 

Incidentally, that old Hugoton field is very, very interesting. My thesis is that it will come to life some day. There are about 500,000 wells in it, connected by an incredible pipeline maze, and the unique feature is that helium comes from those well bores in commercial levels. It think they still have a lot of producing wells up there. The helium used to be stored in underground formations in the Texas Panhandle. Just talking about the Hugoton gets me excited! It is a massive stratigraphic trap encased by dolomite, with the same Wolfcamp formation and the same Permian as farther south--the Delaware. Linn Energy got interested when they were flying high and bought the old field, but then along came the crash, Linn went tits-up, and I have no idea what is happening to the field. 

Anyway, we all thought that this "fracking" thing was born there in the Hugoton. I can see now that it wasn't. However, there was widespread speculation about how the concept escaped the Harvard laboratories that had been involved in developing weapons of war during WWII. I believe they came up with what eventually became Napalm, though I'm not entirely sure of that. 

 

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