Hydraulic Fracturing

Frac Fleets on Film

4 min read by Peter Reilly.

The Shale Revolution sparked a new age of oil and natural gas exploration and production and created a new market within oilfield services. The global hydraulic fracturing market is worth around 37 billion USD and is projected to keep growing. Oilfield service companies created a whole new product service line during the Shale Revolution: Frac Fleets.

I spent some time during the summer of 2022 at one of the hydraulic fracturing sites. I had a Fujifilm disposable camera with me; these are the shots I made with it at the facility along with some explanation of what the machines do.

Production well in middle of Frac spread. DataVan in background.

Most equipment nowadays is operated and monitored remotely from within a DataVan. Treatment schedules are built on a computer which records and tracks proppant amount, fluid volumes, fluid rates, iron/well pressures, and chemical concentrations throughout each stage.

Walking the lines, man in man-basket during well swaps.

Wireline and Frac technicians work together in the completion’s world.

Wireline sends down a plug and a handful of perforation guns on a tool string to create holes in the well, casing to open it to the unfractured formation.

After Wireline runs in the hole (RIH), they shoot their stage perforations with the help of Pump Down, and pull out of the hole (POOH). Finally, they stab off the well and hand it over to Frac.

15W-40, Frac pumps, and sand silos.

Sand and chemicals are pumped at a high rate and high pressure downhole through the wireline perforations to propagate and grow hydraulic fractures into the shale formations.

Sand silos are used to store a large volume of sand on location. Wells across the United States can use anywhere between 40,000 lbs to 750,000 lbs of sand per stage. Each well can have anywhere between 25-100 stages to complete. And each wellsite can have anywhere between 1-10 wells.

Backside, where water, sand, and chemicals meet at low pressure.

Low-pressure hoses and various centrifugal pumps will carry water through equipment where sand and chemicals are mixed before they are pressurized through the Frac Pumps and sent downhole.

Staging pad, where spare equipment and back up chemicals are stored.
Blue Tube housing chemicals used to aid in Hydraulic Fracturing.

Sand is used to help keep fractures open once they’re created as a means to keep permeability high for oil and gas to have a pathway to the well. Sand creates a lot of friction in the pipe and near wellbore/far field and various chemicals are used to reduce frac fluid friction and keep sand suspended in the fluid. This helps carry the sand further and more efficiently.

Since nearly all oil and gas wells are on private land/leases, roads have to be built to the blocks of land from existing roads. We call these pop-up roads Lease roads, which is how I and everyone else get to and from the sites.

Lease road scenery.

I hope that you found my walk through a hydraulic fracturing site (and the walkthrough of how it works) with a Fujifilm disposable camera interesting. They are an important supply of the world’s reliable and affordable energy.