Hydraulic Fracture Efficiency

Synthetic hydraulic fractures in Jell-O using a straw and colored syrup (left) and a natural one in the Touchet Beds (right).

Well fracking is an outgrowth of geometry, reason, and efficiency. The point of fracking a well is to increase the surface area of hydrocarbon-bearing strata connected to the wellbore. The interior surface of a cylindrical wellbore is minuscule when compared to the surface area of a hydraulic fracture network propagated outward beyond the wellbore. While increased surface area could, in theory, be achieved by drilling one very, very large-diameter well or numerous smaller wells in close proximity to one another, neither approach is technically feasible, cost effective, or legally permitted. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that it would take more than 300 unfracked wells or a single well with a diameter of 153' to equal the surface area of a single 6" fracked well. That's an incredibly efficient way to increase the surface area of a single well drilled by one rig from one well pad.

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