Frac’ing has seen widespread success in the US, but to achieve long-term viability in the UK, operators will need to do more than simply replicate the operational processes that have become common practice in North America.

In our last blog, we discussed how Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) technology can deliver essential value in ensuring the commercial viability of frac’ing in the UK. However, what is the specific value DAS offers to make frac’ing operations as safe and profitable as they can be?

Frac’ing often comes under scrutiny – not only from an environmental standpoint, but also its practicality in terms of the geology and property rights in the UK. The geology in the UK is fundamentally different to North America and therefore it is essential to consider the local geological challenges for any frac operation. Beyond this, there also remains widespread environmental concern about the procedure - particularly around the potential for the frac fluid to enter ground water supplies. This is where DAS plays an important role.

DAS enables operators to visualise and understand how the formations interact and react to the frac’ing process, both immediately and over a series of operations. With an accuracy of 1-2 metres, the real-time insight that DAS provides is particularly valuable during initial frac procedures. DAS not only reassures the process is being carried out effectively, but it also allows engineers to react fast and efficiently should any integrity incidents develop, not just during operations, but for the entire life of the well.

Allied to these performance-related issues, there are also important logistical challenges that the UK will present for operators. Typically, well sites in the UK have a smaller footprint and supporting infrastructure, in terms of roads and vehicles for example, have much lower capacity compared to most sites in North America. This means that it is even more important for UK operators to be as efficient as they can be in terms of the water and other chemicals required at well sites and the amount of these resources they use during each operation. 

DAS can deliver significant value in optimising frac operations as it ensures operators achieve optimal production levels, while minimising resource requirements. This will help to lower the ‘break even’ point on wells - a key point in terms of the long-term viability of frac’ing in the UK.

Ultimately, DAS’ ability to optimise the frac’ing procedure and enhance production and operational efficiency means it is a powerful addition to the toolset operators have at their disposal. Moreover, the value that DAS can deliver is even more important at a time of continuing uncertainty in the market.