Engineer Mark Pearson of Liberty Resources LLC in Denver, Colo., addresses Noia members Monday in St. John’s. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
A man working in the oil business on hydraulic fracturing projects — or “fracking” — for his entire career offered an insider’s look at America’s shale oil revolution during a luncheon Monday in St. John’s.
The revolution is chiefly due to technological advancements for the drilling and fracking of horizontal oil wells, said Mark Pearson of Liberty Resources, before walking through advancements made since research and development work in the 1980s.
The new technology has, put simply, allowed for the drilling of wells that can produce more oil.
In one example Pearson showed, the changes have meant a difference of 20,000 barrels a month compared to 20,000 barrels a year.
Paired with higher oil prices, there has been a resulting “step-change” in the industry, he said, with a rush of new drilling and production.
The state of North Dakota had fewer than 10 drilling rigs in use for the oil and gas hunt for at least 20 years, he said, with known oil plays too expensive to produce. Today, more than 180 rigs are active in the state.
The shale oil plays are considered unconventional oil finds.
“To me, unconventional (means) it’s not going to flow by just drilling a well in the ground,” Pearson said, when asked about the term by one of the approximately 60 people in attendance.
Pearson said companies working in shale oil, including companies interested in using the fracking process in this province, can defend against a wave of negative public opinion by providing the public with as much factual information on their drilling and production work as possible before they begin their work.
In a national hydraulic fracturing chemical registry, Frac Focus (fracfocus.org), companies active in the United States now list the composition of their hydraulic fracturing fluid, Pearson said.
The registry provides the trade name of chemicals in the fluid, the supplier, the purpose of each chemical used, the ingredients making up each trade-name chemical and the maximum concentration for each ingredient within the mixtures. The information gets stated alongside basic information on the wells, including their depth, the type of production expected (whether it be an oil well or gas well) and the company responsible.
Pearson’s talk was part of the global Society of Petroleum Engineers distinguished lecturer program.
In this province, Shoal Point Energy has announced plans to continue its search for a profitable project in the Green Point shale area in Western Newfoundland this year, under a new partnership with Black Spruce Exploration.
The companies plan to drill as many as four exploration wells later this year. The plan is to drill on the Port au Port Peninsula, but run the wells out under the inshore area of the adjacent bay.
The work is being fought by the Port au Port-Bay St. George Fracking Awareness Group, a collective demanding that more environmental baseline data for the bay be gathered before any drilling is considered.
The group has also demanded a full environmental assessment of the project.
“We came together to try to stop, or at least have a moratorium put on, fracturing in Port au Port Bay, which is scheduled, as you probably know, to start in April without any regulations or any regulatory oversight in place,” co-chair Aiden Mahoney said Monday.
“They’re just going to bring a drill rig in by ship from the United States and just go on Shoal Point and start fracking. No permissions or licences to do so.”
Both the company and the regulators say that is not the case and the drilling will only begin with regulatory approvals.
According to a news release issued Monday by Shoal Point Energy, the required drill rig will ship from Houston in April and take a month to reach Stephenville.
“Along with the oil rig, we are shipping key backup parts to ensure redundancy-tubing, casing and all of the supplies we will need to drill our four wells in 2013,” stated Black Spruce Exploration president and CEO David Murray.
The Telegram will have a more detailed explanation on the regulatory process in the coming days.