"Just a decade ago, complete wells were fracked at the same time with millions of gallons of water, sand and chemical gels. Now the wells are fracked in stages, with various kinds of plugs and balls used to isolate the bursting of rock one section at a time, allowing for longer-reaching, more productive horizontal wells. A well that once took two days to drill can now be drilled in seven hours.
For instance, when the Apache Corporation began drilling in the 100,000-acre Deadwood field in the West Texas Permian basin in 2010, there had only been a trickle of production there. The deep shale, limestone and other hard rocks had potential, but for years they had not been considered economically viable. The rocks were so hard, they would have likely sheared off the usual diamond cutters on the blade of any drill bit attempting to cut through.
But new adhesives and harder alloys have made diamond cutters and drill bits tougher in recent years. Meanwhile, Apache experimented with powerful underground motors to rotate drilling bits at a faster rate. Now, a well that might have taken 30 days to drill can be drilled in just 10, for a savings of $500,000 a well.
“By saving that money, you can spend more on fracking, which translates into more sand and more stages and better productivity,” said John J. Christmann, the Apache vice president in charge of Permian basin operations.
Apache has already drilled 213 wells in the field, producing 9,000 barrels a day. With 13 rigs running, it hopes to eventually drill more than 1,000 wells, and produce 20,000 barrels a day there. “We’re having a revolution,” said Steve Farris, Apache’s chief executive. “And we’re just scratching the surface.”
HT: Dan Greller