In-depth research and various evaluations are now under way to determine the best practices in shale fracturing programs. Although fracturing is a diverse process, three main issues are currently in development that are poised to have a measurable impact on natural gas companies and job seekers alike. Over the course of the past few years, a critical supply versus demand imbalance has been present across all proppant types with suppliers scrambling to add capacity in order to meet demand. However, adjustments are now in progress which could affect proppant demand in the future. They can be outlined as follows:

  • Liquids-rich drilling. This involves changes in the number of wells drilled in liquids-rich shale plays. Wet-play shale drilling in leading areas will be positive with spot prices above $70, allowing overall economics to produce at least 10% IRR. The past year’s research has shown that the spot price for crude oil peaked on March 1st at $108.76, dipped to its lowest point on June 21st at $77.91 and closed above $86 on November 2nd. Crude prices are expected to remain largely in the $80-$100 window throughout 2013, so wet-play shale drilling in the U.S. will remain on a positive, upward trend.
  • Gas shales drilling. Due to improved environment, great potential has been exhibited for increased drilling in existing U.S. gas shales.  The natural gas wellhead price peaked at $5.69 in January 2010, bottomed out at $1.89 this past April, and has since shown a steady a climb, hitting $3.86 prior to closing on November 2nd. Gas consumption growth in the power generator sector and greatly reduced drilling across U.S. gas shales have both been gigantic contributors to this positive climb. Positive support for natural gas drilling and future development forecast gas to bump up to $3.75 during 2013 and $4.25 by 2014.
  • Improved program designs. Ongoing evaluation has led to improvements in fracturing programs designs and completion. A chief goal and top priority for the development of unconventional reservoirs is to be able to provide as much reservoir contact as possible with the rock face when fracturing. Designs to optimize lateral length, obtain the ideal number of stages, and improve fracture conductivity techniques are all in development to achieve this main goal. Hydraulic fracturing and the costs associated with it are the most expensive component in drilling and completion today; as a result, optimizing completion and fracturing programs, plus assessments of overall efficiencies related to cost are receiving significant attention to improve overall ROI.

Assessments and evaluation of shale fracturing continue in an effort to determine the best method for fracturing programs in relation to lateral lengths, number stages, and material volumes. Current indications point towards effective placement alongside greater stages with reduced fluid and proppant volumes, signaling the industry’s forward-moving path in fracturing U.S. gas shales for the foreseeable future. If you are seeking additional information on impending changes in shale fracturing benefiting career growth within the natural gas industry, contact the experts at FootBridge Energy today!