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With E&P companies in the U.S.'s tight oil patch operating so close to each other, activities in one company often adversely affect operations in another. In particular, when a producer starts a frac job, neighboring wells may suffer unintended damage from the surge in pressure and injected frac fluids, a phenomenon often called a “frac hit.” Getting advance notice of well work in adjacent leases is thus important to let operators take precautionary measures to protect their assets and optimize operations.
This kind of information is hard to get by, however. Voluntary notification programs have been set up to let producers share each other’s frac schedules. But such arrangements rely on timely cooperation from too many parties to be reliable. To overcome this hurdle, Kayrros has developed an alert system that automatically monitors operations across tight oil and gas basins on a daily basis and notifies operators of impending frac activity in neighboring wells.
The problem of frac hits
The case for advance frac job notification is a no-brainer. During the fracking of a well, other wells may become charged with pressure or sanded-in from injected fluids as a result of pressure communication. For the latter to occur, injected frac fluids do not need to actually reach the offset wells. All it takes it for pressure waves to spread through the reservoir space.
When fractures themselves propagate to producing wells, then the frac fluids and sand may penetrate them and cause damage to the completion and lift equipment. Producing wells not only take a “frac hit” but are “fracked into.”
Worst-case scenario, the high pressure required by hydraulic fracturing transfers from the injecting well to other wells with less integrity, causing a failure of pressure control and a blowout of either frac fluids or charged reservoir fluids.
Net result: producing wells can see their water cut and sand production surge and suffer structural damage. Producers face lower production, higher water disposal costs and even forced shutdowns and extended downtime.
By one estimate, the cost of a single detrimental frac hit averages around $1.5 million per well, not including lost or reduced production. In aggregate, lost production from frac hits may cost the U.S. oil and gas industry billions of dollars a year. That estimate predates the recent rally and would be even higher at today’s prices.
To address this challenge, consortia of operators have been created to serve as exchange platforms for communication purposes. Operators can share their frac schedules so that peers adapt their operations if new fracs are expected near their producing assets. But not all of producers participate in these consortia. When they do, the information is often incomplete, too old to be actionable or not provided at all.
One of the top operators in the Bakken, a Kayrros customer, reckoned it could only do so much with what was being reported to state agencies and shared notification programs.
For several years, Kayrros had been monitoring oilfield activity in the Bakken and other basins on a weekly and monthly basis, using cutting-edge algorithms to process and analyze a mix of optical imaging and anonymized geolocation data. At our client’s request, we made it our mission to provide it with the most comprehensive and up-to-date records of expected fracs and potentially impacted wells, raising the frequency of our monitoring to deliver frac hit alerts daily.
Kayrros uses its tracking of well life-cycle events to maintain a full inventory of all drilled and uncompleted wells (DUCs) in the U.S. For each pad with one or several DUCs, Kayrros captures the geolocation signal and processes it to identify the active frac crews using a deep learning model which is trained on historical frac events. We correlate the geolocation signature on the pad with the historical fracs from our event database. This is how our deep learning algorithm defines for each pad the probability for a frac crew to be active.
By implementing Kayrros’ Daily Frac Alert deliveries into their workflow, our client was able to fill in the blanks left by wells not reported to frac consortia. They greatly improved their frac prep process, adding a substantially more effective notification system to offset operators, thus better protecting their assets.
Therefore, our client was able to preemptively shut in or pressure up to protect existing production from detrimental frac hits. They could pause current operations to take protective measures and get an alert enabling them to re-open production without delay as soon as the threat had passed. Through this process of being proactive rather than reactive, they minimized production losses from frac hits, increased producing days and safeguarded their high early production rates.
Other producers in other basins have since followed suit. The resulting benefits are not just financial. Integrating daily alerts of impending fracs into the workflow not only saves money but lets operators maximize production – an energy-security advantage at a time of Russian supply disruptions and tight supply/demand balances. It also reduces the climate footprint of oil production by extending the production life and boosting the performance of working wells, thus reducing the need for new and higher-emitting well-development activities.
About the author: Antoine Halff is co-founder of Kayrros.
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