Field Implementation of Hydraulic Fracturing.
Field implementation of hydraulic and acid fracturing is a complex surface operation that initiates a physical process downhole that cannot be observed. The supervision of a successful job involves much more than simply ensuring consumables are placed in the formation. Perhaps counterintuitively, that objective might be one of the least important. ESG, maximizing well production and effective reservoir drainage are the paramount considerations. When it is time to implement a hydraulic and acid fracture treatment, an operator needs to have confidence that the treatment is executed as designed and there is detailed, and accurate, documentation of the process, materials, and cost. The actual execution of the fracture treatment should never be a well production variable.
When discussing field implementation practices, it is important to understand the realities of modern hydraulic fracturing techniques in North America, which are dominated by multi-well, multi-stage horizontal completions of unconventional reservoirs. These fracturing treatments are technically challenging, operationally complex, and equipment and personnel intensive. The fracturing fluid systems are often simplified and the operations repetitive, which create unique challenges for field implementation and QA/QC in shale fracturing. Unconventional resource treatments require less emphasis on traditional quality control and pre-job testing practices and more focus on key performance indicators and project management. However, successful field execution of unconventional treatments, quality assurance and completion and production optimization still require legacy engineering tools and methods.
Consider the successful field implementation as a ternary graphic with areas representing stimulation design, treatment execution and operational efficiency. Stimulation design determines the type and amount of equipment, fluid, proppant and required chemicals for the creation of the fracture geometry and delivery of the economic objectives for the well, or pad. Treatment execution is the direct supervision inside the control van of the fracturing treatment and focuses on pressure interpretation, consumables behavior, quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) practices, and equipment performance to deliver the stimulation design objectives. In practice, treatment execution and QA/QC often are conflated when discussing fracturing supervision. Treatment execution and QA/QC methods are symbiotic, yet different, practices. Treatment execution is the experienced supervision and execution of the high-pressure stimulation treatment, and QA/QC is the setting and confirming materials performance and setting expectations for the service provider. Operational efficiency focuses on the effective implementation of the treatments, development of best practice, logistic efficiencies and cost control of the support processes, materials, and personnel. Most operational problems and logistical issues generally can be managed or eliminated with robust planning, communication and focused project management.
An overemphasis, or strength in, one focus area diminishes the overall fracture implementation process. For example, a heightened focus on operational efficiency can jeopardize the design objectives of the initial stimulation and drive incorrect decisions regarding the treatment execution. However, striving for equal attention on all three focus areas might not be the best solution for a particular well. Treatment execution is fit-for-purpose, and the fracturing supervisor needs to approach implementation understanding the goals of the operator. Rigidity in execution methods in any one area can jeopardize well performance, cost control, and safety operations.
There is a generation of senior engineers and middle management that might have only experienced unconventional wells, with a point of view that is more aligned with project delivery and operational efficiency than a technical focus. An unfortunate and problematic byproduct is that operators often do not value the necessity of having experienced fracture specialists and engineers on location implementing unconventional treatments. There are basins in full development where field personnel have never had a fracturing specialist or engineer on location executing a treatment. Company men or consulting completion supervisors, although experienced in fracturing operations, do not provide the same level of understanding as an engineer or fracturing specialist whose focus is execution with respect to the initial fracture design objectives. The completion supervisor’s strengths of cost control, operational efficiency and safety assurance are vital to project success, but the hydraulic fracture execution should be supervised by a specialist to ensure the technical execution requirements of a hydraulic fracturing treatment. There is no single greater cost in the life of a well than the hydraulic fracture treatment and should be implemented by a hydraulic fracture specialist.
Bazan Consulting, Inc’s fracturing specialist are experts in all aspects of the hydraulic fracturing process and can add value to your project. Our fracturing specialist understand fracture propagation theory, chemicals use and behavior and have a mechanical aptitude for equipment and processes. Please contact us for more information and how we can help you add value to your next project.