As Road To Real-Time Fracturing Optimization Is Paved, Shale Producers Approach On-Ramps Cautiously
It won’t happen overnight, but a growing number of US shale players are taking important steps to bring more automation and stage-level decision making to the hydraulic fracturing process in tight reservoirs.
To say that the shale sector is on the cusp of a new era, one where fast-flowing streams of real-time well data and on-the-fly fracture designs are the norm, is not something one does lightly.
It’s a bold declaration.
It represents a step change that engineers have been told is just around the corner for several years. They’ve been promised software that will churn out truly optimized recipes of proppant concentration, rate, total volume, etc. to match each fracture stage’s piece of the rock.
In a neat world, this nets better production from good stages while injecting less capital into bad stages—the ultimate win-win for a sector that spends 60–70% of well costs on the completion.
We can pluck example after example from industry literature to prove the incremental existence of such tailor-made well pads. However, the mostly small-scale cases are far from representative of the aggregate.
For some, the absence of scale fuels skepticism over whether real-time optimization will ever amount to much more than avoiding screenouts and other costly operational drags.