Too many regulatory agencies are still using the term unconventional gas, which is more out of date than bell bottom pants after the shale revolution.
Once again, the Energy Information Administration is out with some fascinating facts that reveal the true scale of the there shale revolution. They also expose just how far behind the times some regulatory agencies are with their terminology. Their data demonstrates, beyond any doubt, that it’s time the term unconventional gas was consigned to the trash can. According to the EIA, hydraulically fractured horizontal wells “accounted for 69% of all oil and natural gas wells drilled in the United States and 83% of the total linear footage drilled” in 2016.”
The EIA article, appearing on their Today In Energy site this week, began with that simple but astounding fact; roughly three quarters of all new oil and gas well activity today consists of hydraulically fractured horizontal wells, yet, just yesterday I heard a Pennsylvania DEP refer to unconventional gas. No wonder, the public is confused. Here are the facts from EIA:
The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has increased the rate of recent U.S. crude oil, lease condensate, and natural gas production.
Hydraulically fractured horizontal wells became the predominant method of new U.S. crude oil and natural gas development in October 2011, when total footage (in linear feet) surpassed all other drilling and completion techniques. The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulically fracturing has contributed to increases in crude oil and natural gas production in the United States, which are both expected to reach record levels in 2018.
Although horizontal drilling has been used for nearly a century, its use as a source of U.S. oil and natural gas production began growing in the early 2000s. The process involves drilling a well vertically to a certain depth and then bending the path of the drilling until it extends horizontally. Because they are longer, and the drilling process is more complex, a horizontal well is generally more expensive to drill than a vertical well, but it is expected to produce more crude oil and natural gas.
Horizontal drilling allows more of the wellbore to remain in contact with the producing formation, increasing the amount of oil or natural gas that can be recovered. This method also results in horizontal wells having more drilled footage than vertical wells—hence total footage drilled using horizontal drilling techniques surpassed vertical footage before the actual number of horizontal wells surpassed the number of vertical wells.
In 2016, total drilled footage reached nearly 13 million feet, about 10.7 million of which were hydraulically fractured and horizontally drilled. The length of the horizontal section, or lateral, can range from a few hundred feet to several miles.
Hydraulically fractured horizontal wells have accounted for most of all new wells drilled and completed since late 2014. As of 2016, about 670,000 of the 977,000 producing wells were hydraulically fractured and horizontally drilled.
Hydraulic fracturing is a completion technique, meaning it is performed after the oil or natural gas well has been drilled. Like horizontal drilling, this technique has been practiced for many years, but it has only recently become a major part of U.S. production in combination with horizontal drilling.
The data is clear and speaks for itself. There’s nothing unconventional about hydraulically fracturing and horizontal drilling anymore. It was only putting them together that was unconventional at first, but now it’s simply the way it’s done. It’s not experimental. it’s not unusual. It’s not unconventional. It’s simply natural gas development. The shale revolution has changed everything, so let’s stop this calling it unconventional.