Hydraulic Fracturing Techbook 2018

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68 | August 2018 | HYDRAULIC FRACTURING: LOGISTICS Grains of truth Frack sand is graded by grain size, and also as semi-processed or fully processed, known as wet and dry. Wet sand is screened for size and piled on the ground. When those piles are run through a heater and further filtered, the result is dry sand. Bush noted that another reason the majors have not rushed to in-basin sand is that the needs of oper- ators are changing. "The move to the fine 100-mesh sand is where many of the new mines have opened," he said. "The jury is still out on diminished well per- formance with in-basin sand, but the preliminary studies we have seen seem to show not much change." Farther out, there may be some risk to the incum- bent suppliers. "Many operators have long-term con- tracts for sand supply to lock in prices," Bush added. "But the big suppliers of Northern White sand may be at risk in delivering to Oklahoma or the Permian as a result of in-basin supply." With any booming commodity business there is the chance of tipping into oversupply. That said, longer laterals and heavier sand loads would seem to mitigate that risk for sand, at least this year. "The biggest load we have seen so far is a well that used 57 million pounds of sand," Bush said. "EOG has built something of a reputation for heavy sand in the Eagle Ford. We know of several where 30 million pounds were used." Commonly a frack will consume 2,200 lb of sand per lateral foot, which is 330,000 lb in a 150-ft stage and 440,000 lb in a 200-ft stage. Both get to about 22 million pounds per well. What qualifies as a "big frack" keeps changing, but the upper echelon in 2018 is around 4,500 lb per lateral foot. "Operators are getting a handle on the drilling fac- tory," said Bush. "They are trying to develop a system- atic approach to multiwell, multipad development." By the end of the third quarter Sourcewater expects to launch publication of water and saltwater disposal benchmark prices, reflecting "the actual prices paid at the receiving pit for water or at the tank battery for disposal," said Josh Adler, founding CEO. The benchmarks will be adjusted for location water type, logistics type and volume. Earlier this year the company released its satellite imagery analytics of the Permian Basin. That identi- fies all frack-water impoundments, how much water each holds, the type of water, and the associated surface owner and operator for each. The satellite scans are updated monthly, working toward weekly updates that will identify new pit and well-pad con- struction before permits are reported by the Railroad Commission of Texas. Adler noted that the sudden distress about avail- ability of sand has overshadowed the existing and increasing concern about water, especially disposal. "In two years no one will be concerned with sand," he said. "By 2019 or 2020 there could be an oversupply. The long-term picture for sand is like the long-term picture for pipeline capacity. There will be under- and oversupply cycles. Those will come and go. But the long-term constraint on energy development is water, particularly disposal capacity." The danger is real Produced water for fracturing is not a material sup- ply or technical question but a logistical and regu- latory challenge. "There is plenty of produced water if it can get to where it is needed at the right time," Adler said. "Water midstream networks will move produced water to both new completions and dis- posals, switching between those alternatives based on opportunistic timing and economic tradeoffs. The water midstream players will trade peak flows and excess capacity with each other through inter- connections on forward contracts, running water in both directions." Many operators are shifting to brackish water from freshwater, said Adler. "Those aquifers are less well understood," he noted. "They are not used for any- thing else, so there is no competition for that water. But they are deeper than freshwater aquifers, so they are more expensive to drill, and they seem to recharge more slowly and deplete more quickly. Brackish water use is a bridge to universal produced water recycling." The one place where there is a finite capacity is saltwater injection wells, Adler explained. "If you overpressurize and destroy the rock, that causes the water to slosh around. Then when you drill into the oil formation below, the water rushes down into the well and kills the economics. You end up reproducing water." The danger is real, Adler warns. "No one knows the real capacity for the disposal wells, but there is a limit. At some point treatment for beneficial reuse beyond new completions becomes increasingly viable as disposal becomes increasingly tight, but no one knows when that will happen." Early in May H 2 O Midstream completed the first commercial, truck-free, produced-water stor- age and disposal hub in Texas. The Howard County hub comprises two 500,000-bbl ponds connected to a network of 10 disposal wells totaling 220,000 bbl/d of capacity via a pipeline network of more than 130 miles. There is also a new 35,000 bbl/d, deep- Ellenberger disposal well.

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