A research project looking at the options for measuring the output of hydraulic fracturing wells has started. Over the next few months a team from NEL will be assessing the strengths and weaknesses of current and potential technology and researching how best to improve accuracy and reduce costs.
“If we get into a situation where there is medium to large-scale fracking in the UK, then our report will provide advice on the best way to accurately and cost-effectively measure the production of wells,” says Alick MacGillivray, who is the technical lead on the project.
Hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, is a technique used in the extraction of gas from shale rock formations by injecting water at high pressure. It is moving forward in parts of the UK, although it has been rejected in Scotland due to environmental and political concerns.
The NEL research project is focusing on the measurement of the gas and oil mixture that comes out at the well head. According to Alick there are two main options for this type of measurement. The first is to adopt conventional single phase measurement approaches such as Coriolis or ultrasonic meters. The second is to use multiphase measurement technology, which can be a very expensive option.
“We think that the conventional approach is probably feasible in situations where the output of a well contains up to 5% gas,” Alick explains. “However, above this we think that multiphase is probably the best choice.”
To get the information they need for their study, Alick and his team will be speaking to a wide range of hydraulic fracturing operators. They will be looking particularly closely at the fast-developing American experience and hope to visit the Upstream Production Measurement Forum (to be held in Houston, Texas in the spring) to speak to those operating at the cutting edge of this technology.
The team’s overall target is to finish their research in Spring 2018. The project may lead on to a full-scale meter testing programme later that year.