Hydraulic fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing is a method used to create fractures that extend from a borehole into rock formations, which are typically maintained by a proppant. The method is informally called fracing or hydrofrac. The technique is used to increase or restore the rate which fluids, such as oil, gas or water, can be produced from the formation. By creating or restoring fractures, the surface area of the formation exposed to the borehole is increased and the fracture provides a conductive path connecting the reservoir to the well, which effectively increases the rate that fluids can be produced from the reservoir formations.

The main industrial use of hydraulic fracturing is in stimulating production from oil and gas wells. [Gidley, J.L. et al. (editors), Recent Advances in Hydraulic Fracturing, SPE Monograph, SPE, Richardson, Texas, 1989.] [Yew, C.H., Mechanics of Hydraulic Fracturing, Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, Texas, 1997.] [Economides, M.J. and K.G. Nolte (editors), Reservoir Stimulation, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., New York, 2000.] Hydraulic fracturing is also applied to stimulating groundwater wells, [cite journal |first=David |last=Banks |coauthors=Odling, N.E., Skarphagen, H., and Rohr-Torp, E. |title=Permeability and stress in crystalline rocks |journal=Terra Nova |volume=8 |issue=3 |doi=10.1111/j.1365-3121.1996.tb00751.x |year=1996 |pages=223–235] preconditioning rock for caving or inducing rock to cave in mining, [Brown, E.T., Block Caving Geomechanics, JKMRC Monograph 3, JKMRC, Indooroopilly, Queensland, 2003.] as a means of enhancing waste remediation processes (usually hydrocarbon waste or spills), to dispose of waste by injection into suitable deep rock formations, and as a method to measure the stress in the earth. Volcanic dikes and sills are examples of natural hydraulic fractures. Hydraulic fracturing incorporates results from the disciplines of fracture mechanics, fluid mechanics, solid mechanics, and porous medium flow.


Hydraulic fracturing as used today in the oil and gas industry was first developed in the United States in 1948. It was first used commercially in 1949, and because of its success in increasing production from oil wells was quickly adopted, and is now used in thousands of oil and gas wells annually. The first industrial use of hydraulic fracturing was as early as 1903, according to Watson. [Watson, T.L., Granites of the southeastern Atlantic states, U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 426, 1910.] Before that date, hydraulic fracturing was used at Mt. Airy Quarry, near Mt Airy, North Carolina where it was (and still is) used to separate granite blocks from bedrock.


When applied to stimulation of water injection wells, or oil/gas wells, the objective of hydraulic fracturing is to increase the amount of exposure a well has to the surrounding formation and to provide a conductive channel through which the fluid can flow easily to the well. A hydraulic fracture is formed by pumping a fracturing fluid into the well bore at a rate sufficient to increase the pressure downhole to a value in excess of the fracture gradient of the formation rock. The pressure then causes the formation to crack which allows the fracturing fluid to enter and extend the crack further into the formation. In order to keep this fracture open after the injection stops, a solid proppant is added to the fracture fluid. The proppant, which is commonly a sieved round sand, is carried into the fracture. This sand is chosen to be higher in permeability than the surrounding formation and the propped hydraulic fracture then becomes a high permeability conduit through which the formation fluids can be produced back to the well. The fracture fluid can be any number of fluids, ranging from water to gels, foams, nitrogen, carbon dioxide or even air in some cases. Various types of proppant are used, including sand, resin-coated sand, and man-made ceramics depending on the type of permeability or grain strength needed. Radioactive sand is sometimes used so that the fracture trace along the wellbore can be measured.

Hydraulic fracturing equipment used in the oil field usually consists of a Slurry Blender, series of Fracturing Pumps (Typically powerful triplex, or quintiplex pumps) and a monitoring unit. Associated equipment includes fracturing tanks, high pressure treating iron, low pressure pipes and gauges for flow rate, fluid density, and treating pressure. Fracturing equipment operates over a range of pressures and injection rates, and can reach up to 15,000 psi and 100 barrels per minute.


* Leakoff - loss of fracturing fluid from the fracture channel into the surrounding permeable rock.
* Proppant - solid round grains of sand or other material used to prop open the fracture after injection stops.
* Fracture Gradient - The pressure to fracture the formation at a particular depth divided by the depth. A fracture gradient of 0.8 psi/foot implies that at a depth of 10,000 feet a pressure of 8,000 psi will extend a hydraulic fracture.


External links

* [http://www.hydraulicfracturing.org/ Hydraulic Fracturing Club] – General info, theory, research and resources

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