Sensor Technology Allows Better Visibility in Tracking Fluids

Microseismic relies on acoustic measurements related to the earth breaking.

“The problem is that this can be misleading,” Eiskamp explained. “In some instances, the ground breaking might not be loud enough for sensors to hear it, and fluids can move without microseismic picking it up.”

Another problem is that microseismic might encounter natural fracture zones in the ground, but the ground stops breaking. So an operator could move into natural fractures without the ground breaking, and sensors wouldn’t pick up on it. A third way in which microseismic can be misleading is that, while fluid is pushing up against rocks to break it, those rocks in turn are putting pressure on other rocks, which can create a split or break far from where the fluid is located.

GroundMetrics instead measures the electric properties of the fluid, rathering than monitoring vibration. In comparison with microseismic, which requires a 20 square mile array over a field, GroundMetrics technology also requires a smaller surface array of less than one square mile.

Another method, tilt, is precise, but limited by the terrain and proximity to the wellbore. Tracer technology can confirm or refute commingling between wells, but doesn’t give information about conduit pathways, according to a company presentation.

The company proved in a case study that it can trace where fluid actually goes in a hydraulic fracturing operation, and compared those results from microseismic and tracers. In that study, GroundMetrics demonstrated the potential commercial benefits of its technology to minimize unproduced zones between wells and allow more oil to be produced. It can also reduce the amount of frac fluid needed and the number of wells drilled.

While the technology will not likely replace microseismic entirely – some companies are just used to it – Eiskamp said he doesn’t see a reason why it couldn’t be widely used. The technology’s cost is about the same as microseismic, delivering more value at the same cost.


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