Shell reduces fracking time by 40 per cent

Oil and gas drilling rig

Royal Dutch Shell announced a further refinement of the hydraulic fracturing technology, managing to reduce the total time for fracturing operations by 40 per cent – the portal Drilling Contractor reported on Monday.

Speaking at the 2014 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition in Amsterdam, Genevieve Bouchard of Shell explained that by performing simultaneous operations (SIMOPS) and concurrent operations (CONOPS) the company “was able to pump an average of 6.6 fracs everyday – 57 fracs in 8.6 days.”

The innovative method was implemented in Shell’s Groundbirch asset in Canada, where mulitpad drilling was simultaneously carried out on up to 26 wells in each location. To conventionally complete one well and move onto the next, a 26-well pad would take more than two years to deliver gas. “Instead, we batch drill and then batch complete by clusters,” Ms Bouchard explained. A typical Groundbirch well comprises an approximately 2,000-m horizontal section and eight to 10 fracture stages.

To optimise the exploration time of the wells, Shell decided to implement simultaneous (SIMOPS) and concurrent operations (CONOPS).

Shell defines SIMOPS as two or more mutually exclusive activities that take place within 50 m of each other. An example is perforating one well and fracturing another well in the same cluster at the same time. CONOPS, on the other hand, are mutually exclusive operations that take place outside of the 50-m boundary but are on the same pad. “An example of this would be two drilling rigs working at the same time on two wells at the same time,” Ms Bouchard said.

To make sure that the complex operations run smoothly, Shale increased the number of staff overseeing the activities. “We’ve created a position of a person in charge, so in each location there’s always one person who’s in charge of all the operations. You would have a drilling operation and a completion operation going on at the same time with supervisors for each of these operations, but you’d also have a person in charge of both the drilling and completion operation. That person needs to be aware of what’s going on at all times,” Ms Bouchard explained.

The personnel changes also included streamlining the crew rotation: “Between the night crew and the day crew, our contractors developed a crew change on-the-fly procedure that they implemented,” Ms Bouchard said. “They were able to change crews without having to stop the pumping.”

Additionally, to improve efficiency, Shell used a tool called a matrix of permitted operations (MOPO) to manage process safety through SIMOPS and CONOPS. “It’s a big matrix that can only be changed with a thorough revision by management of the risk,” she said. The color-coded matrix dictates which operations can simultaneously be conducted and under which conditions.

The effects of the implemented changes were impressive: “We achieved a 40% time reduction in the frac operations,” Ms Bouchard said, “plus a total completion cost 11.6% below budget”.

For more information please see: “Simultaneous Operations in Multi Wells Pad: A Cost Effective Way of Drilling Multi Wells Pad and Deliver 8 Fracs a Day.” published by Society of Petroleum Engineers.

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