The Different Stages of Shale Gas Exploration
Photo by James Wengler
Before hydraulic-fracturing can occur, shale gas exploration must take place, to determine the engineering and geological information about the area which may be drilled. The developers need to obtain this type of information so that they will understand the concentration and distribution of the potential drilling area, and the key properties in a reservoir that may allow engineers to determine if it will be profitable to enter into fracking operations at each specific reservoir.
Collecting this data means using a multi-stage method of exploration. These stages will rely upon using acquired data from any previous exploration in planning the possible drilling ventures ahead. The first stage is identifying the potential shale play as having enough thickness in the reservoir and
geographic area to justify fracking in that area.
- During the first stage of exploration, an energy company will also be seeking agreements for the use of lands to be drilled, obtaining permits for drilling and seismic tests and acquiring land for the potential drill site.
- The second stage in shale gas exploration is the use of vertical wellbores to collect information including matrix or rock variability and structural framework of the area. The data is collected using vertical well core sampling, seismic imaging and geochemical testing of the area. The results of these studies will show if an area is worth the money to be spent in drilling within it.
- The third exploration stage is implementing a pilot project that will more accurately define the properties of the rock. It will also provide an indicator of how much production might be done in a specific area, and some stimulation and completion technologies. This may include fracturing areas in a test well, the drilling of horizontal test wells and the analyzing of these results.
- The next exploration step is the expansion of any pilot projects so that stimulation methods may be optimized, and to determine the profiles for production. This stage also allows developers to apply certain techniques to find the best areas for most efficient drilling. This step may include testing of production, using one pad to drill multiple wells, and to test production. Energy companies can also develop plans for pipelines and analyze any new data or results that they have found.
- Step five in shale gas exploration is developing a site commercially and initiating the optimal development plans. This step helps in confirming the cost efficiencies for a possible drilling area, using techniques of vertical integration and synergistic processes. At this stage, the energy company will also be seeking permit approvals for any drilling that may be taking place in that particular area.