Unconventional Resources

At this time in the industry, it is worth reflecting on what drove Steve Jobs, who was one of the most inspirational and innovative thinkers of recent times.

Apple’s chief design officer, John Ive, had this to say about Jobs: “The defeat of cynicism. The rejection of reason. The rejection of being told 100 times, ‘You can’t do that.’ So his, I think, was a victory for beauty, for purity. And as he would say, ‘for giving a damn.’”

With the industry downturn, the same resolve is necessary to find the technical solution that allows the unconventional business to thrive despite severe economic headwinds. And the past is evidence of our capabilities.

In the mid-1990s, with low gas prices, ultratight gas was developed from vertical wells. Water-fracturing technology was developed in this economic environment. The large volumes of proppant previously used were proved not to be necessary in many reservoirs. Significant cost savings were the result, without noticeable effect on production. In this low-gas-price environment, fracture-staging methods were also developed that were cost effective and promoted operational efficiency, such as induced stress diversion. As gas prices improved in the early 2000s, the number of fracture stages increased. Methods such as flow-through fracture plugs were promoted, which, while costing more, led to more-effective cleanup and recovery. Finally, as gas prices continued to increase in the 2000s, horizontal wells increased dramatically in shale gas and then in shale oil.

History shows that technology adapts to the economic conditions. The optimum technology in a high-price environment is not optimum for a low-price scenario. The only limit to unconventional development is our imagination.

So, with a dramatic drop in oil price, unconventional-reservoir development is again ripe for innovation. The path to developing these new technologies requires a sustained focus on innovation and resilience to potential early setbacks.

“And when the ideas didn’t come,” Ive continued about Jobs, “and when the prototypes failed, it was with great intent, with faith, he decided to believe we would eventually make something great.”

Do you have the faith?

Recommended Additional Reading

SPE 171521 Lessons Learned From the Large-Scale Application of Image Logs to Unconventional Resources by Jeremy J. Meyer, Ikon Science, et al.

SPE 170851 Injection in Shale: Review of 15 Years of Experience on the Norwegian Continental Shelf and Implications for the Stimulation of Unconventional Reservoirs by F.J. Santarelli, Geomec, et al.

SPE 170878 Advanced Petrophysical Surveillance Improves the Understanding of Well Behavior in Unconventional Reservoirs by Rafay Ansari, BP, et al.

Simon Chipperfield, SPE, is general manager, Victoria and Northern Territory, at Santos. During the past 17 years, he has held positions in petroleum engineering (drilling, completions, and stimulation) and reservoir engineering. Chipperfield previously worked for Shell International Exploration and Production. He was awarded the 2007 SPE Cedric K. Ferguson Medal. Chipperfield has held a number of leadership positions and has authored or coauthored more than 20 technical publications in the areas of hydraulic fracturing, reservoir engineering, completion technology, and sand control. He holds a petroleum engineering degree with honors from the University of New South Wales. Chipperfield serves on the JPT Editorial Committee and the SPE International Awards Committee and has served as a reviewer for SPE Production & Operations.

Unconventional Resources

Simon Chipperfield, SPE, Chief Production Engineer, Santos

01 July 2015

Volume: 67 | Issue: 7

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