U.S. companies hit peak production in the 1970s when they drilled vertically into reservoirs and the natural pressure immediately caused the oil to flow. But by 2006, two emerging drilling technologies led to a sustained increase in oil and natural gas production in the nation’s dense shale formations.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR OUR NATION, OUR STATE AND THE FUTURE?
The U.S. is now exporting more oil and natural gas products to Europe, China and other large consumers than ever before, and the rate of production continues to rise. Products of all types: crude oil, gasoline and liquefied natural gas are all in high demand abroad and U.S. exports are predicted to hold above one million barrels per day. Oklahoma’s SCOOP and STACK plays continue to deliver oil and natural gas at unprecedented levels, thanks to our considerable shale formations, and the means to efficiently access them. The nation’s proven reserves peaked in 2014 at more than 34 trillion cubic feet. With Oklahoma’s proven reserves doubling between 2007 and 2015, this upward production trend is certain to continue for the foreseeable future.
SHALE: NATURE’S OIL AND NATURAL GAS VAULT.
Shale is a fine-grained sedimentary rock that is formed in many thinly stacked laminated layers with tiny pores. Shale contains organic materials that become trapped between these layers, and eventually break down into oil and natural gas. Shale formations are very dense mudstones that don’t easily release petroleum resources held tightly within their pores.
Hydraulic fracturing, also known as ‘fracking,’ has been a critical part of oil and natural gas production for more than 50 years. It’s the process of using water, sand and additives under high pressure to fracture shale rock formations, unlocking trapped oil and natural gas that would otherwise be impossible to reach.
The development of steerable drilling systems in the 1980s and a series of enhancements that followed allowed drillers to start vertically, then ‘kick off’ horizontally through thousands of feet of petroleum-rich shale. Since the late 1990s these systems have continued to improve with ever increasing accuracy and efficiency.
THE POWER OF TWO TECHNOLOGIES COMBINED.
On its own, hydraulic fracturing made it possible to fracture shale formations to release their oil and natural gas at a given point and depth. But it was in 2006 when producers had cracked the code. By combining hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling, they were able to access multiple layers of oil shale in several directions – through a common well. One horizontal well could do the work of several conventional vertical wells. This breakthrough signaled the beginning of the shale revolution.
Stay up-to-date on the progress and production of the Oklahoma shale revolution at EnergyHQ.com.