The US Department of Energy and Pinnacle Technologies have demonstrated a new system that will help engineers to optimise the output of natural gas from the often-grudging non-conventional reserves on which the US will have to depend for half its domestic production in the future.
A technique called hydraulic fracturing is required to make non-conventional production economic. In fracturing, fluids under pressure are pumped into reservoirs under pressure to crack open new pathways for increased flow of oil and natural gas to the well.
The new Pinnacle mapping system, which is also applicable to oil production, delivers a highly accurate picture of underground conditions and allows induced fractures to be aligned with natural fractures in ways which optimise flow.
Benefits include better quality data, fewer mapping failures, improved understanding of fracture behaviour in a reservoir and improved well spacing and placement.
Non-conventional natural gas reserves found in tight sandstone formations, gas shales and coal seams are critical to maintaining the level of US production in the near term, according to the US National Petroleum Council. Current projections of the US Energy Information Administration see non-conventional production growing by 2.2 trillion cubic feet, or 28 percent through 2030. Such production was 34 percent of US output in 2005 and is expected to be 50 percent in 2030.
The technological advance was the product of a joint venture of the US Office of Fossil Energy’s Natural Gas and Oil Program and Pinnacle Technologies. The venture was managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory.