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Will New Methods Make Shale Oil Viable?

High-intensity hydraulic fracturing is helping produce oil more economically. This new method of fracking uses more water, minerals and high pressure to break up shale. The use of more pressure, water and minerals increases the cost of fracking, however, the enhanced completion techniques can boost productions rates within the first crucial year of production and beyond.

Fracking wells reach peak production quickly, then enter a rapid decline rate, followed by a low output. With the new frack method the pressure creates massive networks of fissures while the increased amounts of sand and ceramic keep shale fractures open allowing oil to flow. This creates better production within the first year and that leads to higher total recovery over the life time of the well.

Previously drillers may have pumped 300 to 500 pounds of frack fluid per foot, with the new enhanced frack recovery method the driller will pump 1,500 to 2,000 pounds per foot. Companies using this method are Whiting Petroleum and Oasis Petroleum in the Bakken and Concho Resources in Texas.

During the final quarter of 2014, Concho Resources reported an 18 percent increase in average 30 day production rates from 2013. However, when using the enhanced frack completion method, Concho Resources saw a 75 percent increase in cumulative production over 180 days during that same frame. They saw a much higher return rate in the first 30 days, they also realized a much shallower decline in subsequent production.

Source: Paul Thares, South Dakota State University 

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