Gas Production Technology

As this editorial goes to press, a constructive debate is happening over the unconventional-resource renaissance in Colorado. Each side held firmly to their respective corners until a compromise was brokered by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who also is a geologist and beer brewer. This deal moved the conversation from an emotionally charged political venue and put it in a more-objective, multifaceted stakeholder commission.

Colorado has a bountiful resource base. Unconventional resources are more common than conventional; thousands of fracture jobs lead to refracturing; and the oil-and-gas-industry gross domestic product rivals that of construction or the food and lodging industries. A total of 70 drilling rigs are running in Colorado, while all of Europe has only 150. Natural gas occurs in many shallow aquifers, providing yet another energy resource option. (Read paper SPE 163965 to see how innovative Japanese engineers produce aquifer-dissolved gas.)

But Colorado is not a conservative utopia; we have legal marijuana, cities that invite lawsuits by banning oil and gas development, and a powerful environmental industry employing fundraisers who impede Denver pedestrian traffic just as trucks delivering proppant slow traffic on lease roads in the giant Wattenberg field north of town. With this patchwork of people and perspectives, one would expect to see chaos. So far, the situation is closer to a “peaceable kingdom,” where development moves forward with legitimate concerns addressed.

In contrast, the incredibly tight rocks that are the source of North America’s gas renaissance are off limits in Germany and France. Even though Maersk drilled the first multifractured horizontal well in the world in the North Sea back in 1987, some European countries are now banning operations that have occurred legally for many decades. Why the recent reversal? Why remove a significant piece of a shrinking list of viable energy options?

A notable difference between the constructive discussions in Colorado and the outright bans is the representation of all stakeholders. Where bans are implemented, well-funded environmental groups and a fearful and naive segment of the public make more noise than resource developers and mineral owners. Developers quietly move capital to greener pastures. In most countries, governments own the minerals. They behave predictably by minimizing conflicts with development opponents while sacrificing economic, energy-security, and CO2-reduction goals that would spread thinly over the large, but largely silent, population.

Because extremists will not be satisfied until all fossil-fuel production stops, the debate will continue as long as people choose to use oil and gas. At least one community has shown that compromise and rational discussion can prevail over hyperbole and paranoia—at least for now.

This Month's Technical Papers

Characterization of Hydraulic-Fracture Geometry in Shale-Gas Reservoirs

Coal-Seam-Gas-Field Management: Forecasting During Shutdown and Recovery

Surface Jet Pumps Enhance Production and Processing

Recommended Additional Reading

SPE 163965 Development of Water-Dissolved Gas in Nishikambara Gas Field and Calculation of Land Subsidence Induced by Water Pumping by T. Higuma, Kyushu University, et al.

SPE 164475 Natural-Gas Reciprocating-Compressor Optimization by Jean Mino, Detechtion Technologies

SPE 166368 Design, Installation, and Initial Performance of Ultrahigh-Rate Gas Deepwater Completions—Tamar Field, Offshore Israel by John Healy, Noble Energy, et al.

OTC 25374 Guest-Molecule-Exchange Kinetics for the 2012 Ignik Sikumi Gas-Hydrate Field Trial by Mark White, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, et al.

Scott J. Wilson, SPE, is a senior vice president in the Denver office of Ryder Scott Company. He specializes in well-performance prediction and optimization, reserves appraisals, simulation studies, software development, and training.  Wilson has worked in all major producing regions in his 25-year career as an engineer and consultant with Arco and Ryder Scott. He has served as cochairperson of the Reserves and Economics Technology Interest Group and as chairperson of the Denver section of the Society of Petroleum Evaluation Engineers, and he currently serves on the JPT Editorial Committee. Wilson holds a BS degree in petroleum engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and an MBA degree from the University of Colorado. He holds three patents and is a registered professional engineer in Alaska, Colorado, Texas, and Wyoming.

Gas Production Technology

Scott J. Wilson, SPE, Senior Vice President, Ryder Scott Company

01 November 2014

Volume: 66 | Issue: 11

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