Project Gasbuggy A Nuclear Fracturing Experiment
- D.C. Ward (U. S. Bureau Of Mines) | C.H. Atkinson (U. S. Bureau Of Mines)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- February 1966
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 139 - 145
- 1966. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 2.2.2 Perforating, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 4.2 Pipelines, Flowlines and Risers, 4.6 Natural Gas, 3.2.3 Hydraulic Fracturing Design, Implementation and Optimisation, 5.6.5 Tracers, 2.4.3 Sand/Solids Control, 4.3.4 Scale
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Project Gasbuggy was instituted to design, conduct and evaluate a nuclear fracturing experiment and it is a joint undertaking by the United States Atomic Energy Commission; Bureau of Mines, U. S. Dept. of the Interior; the U. of California Lawrence Radiation Laboratory at Livermore; and El Paso Natural Gas Co. The experiment is designed for the detonation of a 10-kiloton fission explosive at a depth of 4,150 ft to evaluate the stimulative erect on gas production from the Pictured Cliffs formation in the San Juan Basin, N. M.
Nuclear-explosive stimulation of natural gas reservoirs is technically feasible; but only from analysis of production data obtained by this and future experiments can the economics be determined. Favorable results from Project Gasbuggy could pave the way for substantially increased recovery from many known but low-productivity hydrocarbon reservoirs.
For more than a century, petroleum has been produced commercially in the U. S., and present-day estimates are that produced hydro-carbons supply approximately three-fourths of the total energy consumed in this country. An ever-increasing demand for petroleum, coupled with increasing difficulty and cost involved in finding new petroleum reserves, has placed emphasis on increased recovery from known hydrocarbon-bearing reservoirs. The inability to recover more than a small fraction from some of these known deposits by existing technology and economics limits development of our natural resources.
In 1957, a 1.7-kt (a kiloton is the energy equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT) nuclear explosive was detonated at a depth of 899 ft below the Rainier mesa at the Nevada test site near Mercury, Nev. The Rainier test, which was the first contained nuclear explosion, suggested to many in the petroleum industry that perhaps a nuclear explosive could be used to stimulate petroleum production, for here was an enormous quantity of energy stored in a relatively small package.
Engineers at the Bureau of Mines' Bartiesville Petroleum Research Center early in 1959 began to investigate the potential for nuclear-explosive (NE) stimulation. The initial work was carried out on a limited scale with engineers of Continental Oil Co. Since 1962 this work has been per formed on an expanded scale under a cooperative agreement with the San Francisco operations office, Special Projects Div. (Plowshare), Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). The Plowshare program was established to develop peaceful uses for nuclear explosives. This cooperative research has resulted in the following conclusions: (1) the application of NE in stimulating production from selected low-productivity oil and natural gas reservoirs is technically feasible, (2) the extensive, thick, low-permeability natural gas reservoirs in the Rocky Mountain region appear the most favorable for application of NE stimulation, (3) the economics of NE stimulation can be determined only by a full-scale field test, and (4) justification for such a test lies in the number, areal extent and resources of low-productivity gas reservoirs where producing rates and ultimate recovery may be substantially increased.
A survey of gas fields and discussions with operators resulted in a choice of several locations where field tests should be feasible. One of the most promising of these prospective test sites is on El Paso Natural Gas Co.'s (EPNG) acreage in the San Juan Basin, Rio Arriba County, N. M. An affirmative preliminary evaluation of the suitability of this site and the desire of EPNG to participate in such an experiment led to the initiation of Project Gasbuggy. Nuclear detonations under the AEC Plowshare program are customarily named for vehicles.
Project Gasbuggy was instituted to design, conduct and evaluate a NE stimulation experiment in the Pictured Cliffs reservoir at the proposed location and is a joint undertaking by the AEC, EPNG, USBM and the U. of California Lawrence Radiation Laboratory at Livermore, Calif. A detailed report was prepared concerning the feasibility of NE stimulation of a natural gas reservoir, including results of the site evaluation and a preliminary design for the experiment. The report was prepared as a supporting document to be submitted along with a field-test proposal by EPNG to the AEC.
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