Saudi Aramco Makes Progress with Hydraulic Fracturing

By Abdelghani Henni 16 Jun 2014

Saudi Aramco is working to develop new hydraulic fracturing technologies and has made significant progress as part of its efforts to push for new and better ways to conduct fracturing operations with the least environmental impact possible, the company said in its annual report. 

The company said that new hydraulic fracturing technologies are being developed to significantly improve cost efficiency, increase recovery rate, and reduce environmental impact and enhance well productivity across shale, deep sandstones, and carbonate formations in the Kingdom.

The company has made progress with the development of several technologies, including pulsed gas fracturing, which improves well-to-reservoir connectivity by generating a fracture network near the wellbore using a propellant. 

Meanwhile, plasma technology uses high-electric discharge to generate supersonic stress waves to induce fracture in the reservoir. “In addition, the CO2-based fracturing fluid may meet the water supply challenges in large-scale fracturing jobs,” the company said.

Also, staged fracturing is evolving into cost-effective techniques by creating multiple hydraulic fractures in horizontal wells without using mechanical isolation tools. “Research and development between Saudi Aramco and Schlumberger Limited has discovered methods to control simultaneous fracture initiation, marking the first multiple fracture initiation research in the oil and gas industry,” Saudi Aramco said in the report.

More progress was also made in the use of the microseismic fracturing, which proved to be a valuable tool in the first Northwest shale gas well to assess the efficiency of the fracture network generated through hydraulic fracture treatments. “The technology provided a better understanding of the geometry and complexity of the fracture design,” it said.

The company’s Advanced Research Center of Exploration and Petroleum Engineering (EXPEC ARC) is also working on an innovative fracture propping concept to chemically convert fracturing fluid into solids in situ. “The fracturing fluid will be a system containing multiple liquid and/or gas components,” the report said. “Upon being catalyzed by the reservoir temperature, the fluid is set into a porous medium to keep the fracture open while at the same time providing high conductivity.”

Saudi Aramco is also exploring new methods for using fracturing fluid technology to get the maximum amount of natural gas out of the ground with minimum ecological impact. The company claims that the recent development of environmentally friendly polymer-free fracturing fluids, with superior operational performance, represents a major technological advance in the petroleum industry.

Abdelghani Henni is the Middle East Editor for the Journal of Petroleum Technology.