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Improving the Industry’s Understanding about the Fundamentals of Hydraulic Fracturing

GTI’s hydraulic fracturing research began as early as 1983, leading to “proof-of-concept” experiments at its Hydraulic Fracture Test Site (HFTS) in the Rocky Mountains. Leading-edge technologies were verified in these field tests. One of the GTI’s major achievements was the development of a model for designing and predicting the behavior of hydraulic fractures that included the real-time monitoring of fracturing parameters such as rate, pressure, and viscosity. The industry is still using the technology today, as a model known as FRACPRO available from CARBO Ceramics Inc.

Hydraulic fracture modeling was validated by both mini- and post-fracture measurements to establish a scientific basis for hydraulic fracturing, which up until that time was more an art than a science. The work went beyond just analytical models — GTI developed diagnostics and ran lab experiments in the field to determine where a fracture goes (propagates), how far it goes, and what parameters control its destiny. One of GTI’s shallow coalbed methane wells was mined back, so pictures of the actual fractures were taken as the seams were exposed, providing amazing validation.

From the 1980s through the 1990s, GTI developed methods for monitoring the creation of hydraulic fractures, which led to the development of microseismic imaging of fractures, and worked with Sandia National Laboratories to develop a downhole tool.

A key technique, FracSeisSM microseismic hydraulic fracture mapping for fracture diagnostics, was developed by GTI to help gas producers plan and conduct effective and economical hydraulic fracturing operations. It is now available as a suite of services from Pinnacle Technologies.

Since 1978, GTI has led and program managed the operations of more than 30 cooperative research wells, often in close collaboration with the Department of Energy. A sample of relevant past hydraulic fracturing programs and testing facilities includes:

  • Advanced Hydraulic Fracturing Project, GTI and RPSEA. 2013-
  • Marcellus Shale Research Project, GTI and RPSEA. 2011- 2013
  • New Albany Shale Research Project, GTI and RPSEA. 2008-2010
  • Catoosa Test Facility, GTI 2001-2011
  • Underbalanced Completions Program, GTI. 2001
  • Mounds Drill Cuttings Injection Project, Gas Research Institute (GRI), Oklahoma. 1999
  • GRI/DOE Multi-Site Hydraulic Fracture Diagnostics Project (MWX), GRI, Colorado. 1999
  • Four-staged Field Experiments (SFE wells), Texas and Wyoming
  • Cotton Valley Hydraulic Fracture Imaging and Waterfrac Projects, GRI. 1999
  • Fracturing Fluid Characterization Facility (FFCF), GRI and University of Oklahoma. 1991-1998

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