GTI, BHP Billiton Partner on Permian Fracturing Test

Gas Technology Institute (GTI) announced Tuesday it will work with BHP Billiton Petroleum to develop and test technology to enhance hydrocarbon recovery, lower costs and enhance the environmental sustainability of U.S. shale resources in the Delaware Basin, a subset of the Permian Basin.

The Hydraulic Fracture Test Site 2 (HFTS) in Reeves County, Texas will feature a dedicated well drilled to extract core to better understand the stimulated reservoir volume (SRV) within the Wolfcamp formation, GTI said in an Oct. 25 press statement. Work on the new test site will take place over the next 12 months.

“This effort is changing the industry by facilitating deeper understanding of the hydraulic fracturing process,” said Kent Perry, executive director of energy supply R&D at GTI, in the press statement. “Determining optimum spacing will potentially reduce the number of wells producers have to drill, conserve water, reduce emissions and minimize land footprint. This will have a tremendously positive effect on the environment as we access this important energy resource.”

BHP Billiton will provide significant existing research data for the project, said Alex Archila, president of BHP Billiton’s shale business, in the press statement. This data will provide immediate insights to all project participants.

The test will build off the first HFTS collaboration in the Midland sub-basin of the Permian. Laredo Petroleum Inc. hosted that test, where more than 400 fracture stages were completed in 11 wells in the Wolfcamp formation. GTI is serving as the lead for the $21 million collaboration; funding is being provided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory and numerous operators and service companies, including Devon Energy Corp., Halliburton Company, Core Laboratories, and Total S.A., in the 2015-2016 time period, GTI said in an April 14, 2016 press statement. All of the field work for HFTS 1 is completed; analysis of the data continues, Perry told Rigzone.

The first HFTS targeted horizontal shale wells to reduce and minimize potential environmental impacts, demonstrate sale and reliable operations, and improve the efficiency of hydraulic fracturing, GTI said in an April 14 release. This test sought to validate and advance fracture diagnostic technologies such as microseismic acquisition and analysis techniques for more accurate determination of fracture dimensions. In this test, a one-of-a-kind through-fracture core was drilled through the hydraulic fractures at the test site, providing a core sample where the physical properties of the fractures can be observed.

The results of HFTS 1 provided initial insights into how induced underground fractures spread, GTI said in the Oct. 25 release. This information is being used to assess the performance of individual fracture stages. As with the first HFTS, public and private sector participants are invited to participate in HFTS 2.

The Permian Basin has seen an uptick in exploration and production as innovations in sideways drilling and hydraulic fracturing have made these activities profitable in spite of the current oil price slump. The Permian’s profitability has also triggered a wave of record-setting acquisitions in the Permian, including SM Energy Co.’s $1.6 billion acquisition of assets in West Texas’s Howard and Martin counties.

Karen Boman has more than 10 years of experience covering the upstream oil and gas sector. Email Karen at kboman@rigzone.com

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