At the SPE Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition in Houston last month falling oil and gas prices was, of course, a major discussion topic. With conditions unlikely to improve in 2016, everybody is continuing to tighten their belts to survive another year of market uncertainty.

The key priority for operators is to keep production high but costs low, and it is perhaps for this reason that there were many discussions at the show around re-fracturing existing wells.

It has been estimated that frac’ing a new well can cost up to $8million, compared to only $2million for existing wells. Therefore the viability to continue opening new wells, when coupled with squeezed margins and continued instability in the oil and gas market, is undoubtedly a major concern for operators.

This rise in re-frac’ing

Experts believe that only 8% of a reservoir’s oil from shale wells is recovered the first time but by re-frac’ing existing wells, the output rate can be significantly boosted. With such a seemingly simple yet lucrative opportunity to capitalise on, it is no surprise that re-frac’ing is garnering attention within the industry.

However, in reality, the process is a very delicate and complicated one especially in terms of well-integrity - leaks and cracks in the casing are a much higher risk in re-frac operations. Once the well has been deemed suitable to re-frac, it is technologies such as DAS that will be crucial in ensuring the process is optimized and completed safely and efficiently.

For example, DAS informs operators where the integrity of the cement well casing is eroding, potentially avoiding cross stage communication issues or proppant leaks into the formation or ground water. DAS can detect these incidents in real-time so that as an issue arises operators can shut down immediately and reset.

But, that’s not all – DAS also has a fundamental role to play in terms of enhancing production efficiency. By providing accurate data within minutes of completing a frac stage, DAS lets operators know how much resource each zone is taking, giving them incremental knowledge of which stages have the highest production levels in real-time.

There is no doubt that re-frac’ing has the potential to be incredibly successful and the excitement is already permeating through the industry, as we noticed at SPE ATCE. However, market conditions still remain a major concern and it is only by leveraging the latest technologies that operators can ensure that re-frac’ing fulfills its potential and drives a brighter future for the industry.