Oil prices have fallen to lows not seen in years. These low oil prices and sustained low gas prices have drastically reduced the number of new wells being drilled in US unconventional plays as oversupply from these plays has reached an all-time high in US storage levels. One alternative to drilling new wells is to hydraulically refracture older wells to enhance production and gain additional economic returns. With each successful refracturing operation, service companies are improving on methods to divert refracturing fluid and proppant without the use of mechanical diversion techniques. To ensure success and meet economic hurdles, refracturing requires thorough preparation, proper candidate selection, and effective diversion techniques.

The authors of this paper studied the economic potential and applicability of refracturing in six different unconventional plays across the US, including the Haynesville, Fayetteville, Barnett, Woodford, Eagle Ford, and Bakken plays. The expected rates of return for refracturing were compared to the economics of new wells to determine which alternative is a better use of capital spending and how the economics vary by play. Major challenges with refracturing horizontal laterals are highlighted, along with criteria for picking the best refracturing candidates to reduce risk and help meet economic hurdles.

We carefully searched through over 20,000 laterals completed since the second half of 2013 in the US and found more than 100 horizontal wells refractured by chemical diversion means based on public records. The production results of these wells were evaluated to identify the best basins for economic success. The Haynesville and Eagle Ford show the best rates of return, whereas other basins will require higher market prices, changes to current refracturing techniques, and/or identification of the best refracturing candidates to minimize the associated risks. The number of economic horizontal refracture candidates across the various basins will vary with fluctuations in oil and gas prices.

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