Deepwater Gulf Drilling Creates Demand for Lighter, Stronger Proppants

Interest by operators in drilling the Paleogene and Lower Tertiary plays in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico has created the need for advanced ceramic proppants that can enhance production in high-pressure, high temperatures wells.

In late March, Houston-based Oxane Materials Inc. unveiled OxThor, the company’s newest advanced ceramic proppant that is targeted for use in technologically demanding deepwater applications. OxThor was developed to target the need of Oxane investors such as ConocoPhillips Company, Chevron Corp., BP plc and Total S.A., who have operations in the deepwater Gulf, Oxane President Chris Coker told Rigzone in an interview.

Coker said Oxane is eager to meet these companies’ needs for proppants that will improve production by transporting more deeply and offering more conductivity. OxThor, which is 20 to 25 percent lighter than competing products available, is designed to withstand closure stress of 20,000 psi and temperatures of 450 Fahrenheit. OxThor’s lightness is a key enabler of its ability to transport more deeply, allowing for more rocks to be propped and for a longer period of time.

Comparing a hydraulic fracture to a highway from the pay zone to the wellbore, Coker said proppants act like the cement on the highway to keep the pathway wide and improve the quality of the pavement, allowing more oil to flow from the pay zone to the wellbore and extending the highway deeper into the play.

The company expects to begin producing in June reservoir quantities of OxThor at its Van Buren, Arkansas manufacturing facility. Oxane uses a broad array of highly scalable process technology to manufacture its proppants. Coker said the company may pump jobs with OxThor this year.

Oxane also offers ceramic proppants for use in onshore shale plays. The company is pumping in real-time its forty-ninth well in a North America tight oil shale play – the largest well to date at more than 6 million pounds -- and expects to pump its fiftieth well this month or in June, said Coker.

Coker said Oxane has enjoyed record production, with production this year expected to reach 40 million pounds of proppant this year. Moving forward, Oxane’s two product lines at its manufacturing facility will be able to produce up to 100 million pounds of the company’s three proppants: OxThor, OxSteel and OxBall.


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