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Fracturing Volcano Rock in India: Continuous Improvements Over 11 Years


Fracturing a formation of the well is generally accomplished through three major

methods: acid injection, explosives, and hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing is the
technique used to stimulate productivity of well with low porosity and permeability. It works by
injecting a pressurized liquid called ‘fracking fluid’ that are a mix of water, sand or other
proppants. The injection rate of this technique is so enormous for the formation to accept without
breaking at some point. Once the formation “breaks down,” a fracture is formed, and the injected
fluid flows through it. In the US itself, over 95 percent of new wells drilled are hydraulically
fractured. Modern hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling allows multiple wells
to be drilled from one spot, reducing the size of the drilling area above ground by as much as 90
percent. Hydraulic fracturing also allows for the recovery of oil and natural gas from formations
that geologists once believed were impossible to produce, such as shale gas, tight gas, tight oil,
and coal seam gas wells formations.

The Problem

One case of well with needs of hydraulic fracturing is RDG-15 in India. Raageshwari Deep Gas
(RDG) Field is located in the southern Barmer Basin of India. And because of the low
permeability of this gas reservoir, hydraulic fracturing was necessary for sustained economic
However, hydraulic-fracturing operations are facing several difficulties in Rajasthan. Since
RDG-15 is located in arid region, a continuous supply of water is one matter that indeed,
problematic. In addition, the oilfield infrastructure is much smaller than typically seen in North
America. Having these issues, the first campaigns suffered from significant operation delays and
cost overruns. However, with operational changes, an RDG Field 15-well program set new
operational planning and execution benchmarks. A summary of main operational challenges and
their respective solutions is presented in the following paragraph:

Rig Up and Simultaneous Operations (SIMOPS). For the RDG Field 15-well campaign, the
layout for rig up for fracturing and associated services was planned carefully to optimize the
available area and to ensure maximum SIMOPS with minimum downtime.

Dual-Well Rig Up. Having an available backup well for fracture activities dramatically reduced
nonproductive time and greatly improved the overall operational efficiency of the campaign.

Continuous Water Supply. For the 15-well campaign, pipelines were used to carry water from
a borehole in the production terminal to the various well pads. This eliminated all the downtime
associated with water supply.

Fracturing Fluid. Using the borehole water introduced an additional problem. The borehole
water was saline, and boron content was above the permissible level for crosslinking of the base
gel. To use this water, a specially tailored fracturing fluid had to be developed. More than 60
laboratory tests were conducted before an acceptable fluid formulation was found.

Perforating. Selective firing switches that allowed up to four gun firings in a single run were
introduced as a solution.

Bridge-Plug Milling. The various fracturing stages were isolated from one another using
composite 10,000-psi bridge plugs. These bridge plugs were milled using coiled tubing, with an
expected milling time of less than 1 hour.

Near-Zero Gas and Condensate Flaring. Cairn India’s goal is to eliminate gas and condensate
flaring when possible. The separator pressure was used to push the gas and condensate into the
header. It is estimated that approximately 3 MMscf/D of gas and 300 B/D of condensate were
saved using this approach.