Sunday 22 Sep, 2019
Unconventional Oil & Gas

What is Unconventional Oil and Gas?

Unconventional oil and gas can be broadly defined as oil and natural gas that cannot be economically exploited using conventional vertical wells. Unconventional reservoirs hold continuous oil and gas accumulations over large areas but, due to their low permeability, have low oil and gas flow rates (in comparison to conventional reservoirs). Due to these low flow rates, unconventional reservoirs were commonly overlooked as commercial sources of natural gas.


New Technologies Paving the Way

Until the early 1990s, the low flow rates of the vast majority of unconventional reservoirs made the oil and gas contained within
un-economic to extract. But with the introduction of new technologies, such as horizontal drilling and fracture stimulation, these
previously-overlooked sources of gas became more and more economically feasible. These new methods were pioneered in the United States, notably on the Barnett Shale, which is now one of the largest unconventional gas-producing basins in the United States, and the Pinedale Anticline, where Ultra Petroleum (then led by Marc Bruner) put together a substantial asset position prior to it becoming the third largest natural gas field in the United States.


Horizontal Drilling and Fracture Stimulation

Horizontal wells drill laterally through the oil and gas reservoir increasing the exposure of the well to the gas accumulation. Generally, horizontal wells can produce up to four times as much as vertical wells, but only cost around three times as much. Fracture stimulation, however, increases gas flow rates by fracturing the source rock through the high pressure injection of a fluid. This fluid contains a 'proppant', such as sand, to keep the fractures open when the fluid is extracted, allowing the oil and/or natural gas to flow.


Source: Schlumberger

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