Waterless and sand-free fracking may sound like an impossibility, but with the relentless competition in the oil and gas sector Calgary startup RocketFrac Cleantech was motivated to find a way to make propellant fracturing more effective. For energy companies looking for innovative ways to increase production without expensive drilling programs, new stimulation strategies are in high demand, and for some sites the new technology may be the perfect fit.
Today’s propellant fracturing is highly sophisticated, but RocketFrac Cleantech has taken the technique even further, combining two innovations to enhance the propellant fracturing process. First, a proprietary blend of rocket fuel that creates a unique, sustained burn, and second a downhole tool with patent-pending isolation mechanisms that trap more of the energy in the wellbore than other methods, and direct it into the formation.
Dubbed EcoStim™, the new process produces a pressure build-up that is sustained for over 120 seconds, peaking at over 40,000psi of pressure. Both the duration and peak pressure of the fracturing process are setting a new standard for propellant fracturing.
To meet RocketFrac Cleantech’s precise needs and exacting specifications, world-class rocket fuel manufacturer Magellan Aerospace was selected to collaborate on the development of the propellant chemistry. Where a typical propellant fracture involves the irregular explosion of thousands of tiny pellets of fuel, RocketFrac instead uses a slow-burning, high-energy formulation. When ignited, the rocket fuel steadily combusts into high temperature gases that are contained in the zone of interest in the wellbore by the isolation mechanisms. The accumulating gasses create immense pressure in the wellbore, and are forced through the casing perforations into the formation, cleaning out the perforation channels extending through any formation skin damage, and greatly improving fluid flow and effective permeability.
In addition to the gasses being forced into the reservoir to create the initial fractures, the combustion of the rocket fuel generates a stress wave. This multi-frequency stress wave propagates into the formation extending the fractures further than other propellant methods. Hydraulic fracturing generates a single linear fracture that propagates vertically, and can extend above and below the formation. By contrast, EcoStim™ generates four to six radial fractures that propagate horizontally and stay within the producing zone.
Another benefit of the shock wave generated by the combustion of the rocket fuel, is that it creates a scouring retrograde motion that produces sand directly in the new fractures, and dislocates the faces created along the new fractures so they cannot close in on themselves, making the process self-propping.
As the RocketFrac process does not use water for the fracturing process, and does not require sand, it also has environmental benefits. Removing the energy intensive transportation of millions of litres of water and tonnes of sand dramatically lowers carbon emissions, and requires a smaller operational footprint meaning less surface disruption. All of this while preserving fresh water and reducing the likelihood of any seismic activity from the process.
All of these benefits assist companies and the industry as a whole in managing the increasing demands for ESG compliance coming from consumers and government. At a time when the world needs more hydrocarbon production to address the destructive effects of worldwide energy shortages, cleantech innovations in the oil and gas sector are a boon to everyone.
For more information on RocketFrac Cleantech’s services, please reach out directly to Mike Bowerman, [email protected], 403.461.6079.