The recovering global economy, post the pandemic and current geopolitical circumstances, has underscored the reliance on energy to drive global development. Underinvestment in oil and gas projects over the past few years, coupled with a sudden increase in energy demand, has put the onus on oil and gas companies to accelerate the ramp-up of deferred projects.

As winter approaches every year, global gas consumption increases exponentially. Because gas is a cleaner source of energy, countries and organizations once solely focused on oil exploration have shifted their strategies to concurrently explore for gas reserves.

As a means of meeting the current increase in energy requirements, there is a push around the world to replicate the North American shale-development strategy of long horizontals with multiple hydraulically fractured stages targeting these oil and gas reserves.

Low oil and gas prices in the recent past have necessitated a focus on the wider implementation of efficient fracturing technologies, in terms of both operations and production, with the aim of maximizing returns with minimal investment. There has been greater emphasis on moving away from the factory approach and using a more-engineered well-by-well approach.

The past decade has seen many technological innovations in the well-completion domain focused on hydraulic fracturing. Within openhole multistage completions, we have seen a wider use of higher-expansion-ratio packers, such as metal expandable packers; fracturing-sleeve configurations, which enable greater stage count in a single well than previously possible; multicluster fracturing sleeves; dissolvable ball and seat technologies; and reclosable sleeves, to name a few. On the other end of the spectrum, when we look at cased-hole completions, we have seen great improvements in pumpdown technologies, dissolvable plugs, and advanced perforation and logging technologies, among other developments.

There have also been great advances in fracture propagation and stage-contribution monitoring, moving from traditional radioactive tracers to various nonradioactive tracers, and developments in microseismic and fiber-optic monitoring as well as production-logging technologies. In an environment where we are limited by both surface facilities and subsurface well placement, these technologies have been crucial in trying to better understand the interaction between parent and child wells along with formulating field strategies in new basins.

The implementation of machine learning and artificial intelligence in the fracture design and analysis domain, as well as in fracturing equipment operation and maintenance, has led to further optimization in planning and resource management. Some of these technologies can indirectly help us lower the carbon footprint while fracturing.

As an industry, we are at a critical point where, along with advancements in hydraulic fracturing optimization, it is important to focus on highlighting our technological achievements and developments through the mainstream media. It is critical to emphasize the efforts of the oil and gas industry in lowering the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing by using minimal resources and maximizing energy generation to fuel global economic growth. Considering the renewed focus on hydraulic fracturing as a means of meeting the world’s energy requirements, we can expect to see considerable advancement and introduction of new innovative technologies in the near future.

Recommended additional reading at OnePetro:

SPE 200846 - Novel Application To Recognize a Breakdown Pressure Event on Time Series Fracture Data vs. an Artificial-Intelligence Approach by Alberto Jose Ramirez, Well Data Labs, et al.

SPE 201376 - Pumpdown Diagnostics for Plug-and-Perf Treatments by David Cramer, ConocoPhillips, et al.

SPE 203284 - Critical Review of Multistage Fracturing Completions and Stimulation Methods by Eyad A. Alali, Saudi Aramco, et al.

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