Unconventional plays in the US continue to be the biggest experiment in the history of the oil and gas industry. Particularly in the current market conditions of volatile oil prices, operators continue to introduce methods to maximize the efficiency of their operations. We examined the methods of adopting an aggressive approach to optimizing stimulation design to lower the breakeven level of operations and evaluated the results.

Public data were deciphered in a way they could be interpreted to the level of granularity sufficient to conclude an effect of certain fracturing techniques of different operators and to compare on a similar scale measures that had been taken to improve fracturing design. Various analytical and statistical tools were employed to handle the large amount of data in both unaltered and normalized ways to demonstrate the trends in different US basins.

Operators made significant improvement in production by changing parameters in the fracturing and completion design strategy, including, but not limited to, the amount of water used, the amount of sand pumped, stage spacing, maximum sand concentration, and fracturing fluid selection. However, the challenge remains of determining whether the design is indeed optimum. This paper addresses the importance of aggressive design, its evolution, and enablement technologies.

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