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№ 5 (May 2009)

Weatherford Develops a New Frac Services Model

   Weatherford entered the Russian hydrofracturing market in early 2008, having imported a new hydrofracturing fleet into the country. 

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   Also, it built a specialized fracturing technologies center in the town of Pyt-Yakh in Tyumen region. Andrei Khodykin, the product line manager (Russia), Reservoir Stimulation and Pumping Services, told an OGE correspondent about the company’s successful experience with  coiled tubing fracturing.

Oil&Gas Eurasia: Could you tell us more about Weatherford’s experience in entering the Russian hydrofracturing market? When and where did the first hydrofracturing operations take place? How successful they were?
Andrei Khodykin: Weatherford concentrates its efforts on ensuring a higher well productivity. Taking this into account, well stimulation is considered one of the company’s main activities, as a natural extention of the process. Currently we are developing a new model for frac job services to meet  customers’ requirements regarding the services quality and efficiency combined with the use of modern technologies. In Russia the company employes the industry’s top specialists who make up a reliable team. They use the state-of-the-art technologies and equipment to increase the return on investments for our customers. The company’s goal is to raise higher the industrial standards for frac job services. In Russia the first operations involving well stimulation were performed the last spring under one of our customers’ order. We had to service some wells in his filed. According to the order, we had to do the Mayer-Hoffer test and carry out mini-fracturing and frac jobs on all wells there. All operations were successful and the customer was satisfied.
OGE: What are the specifics of hydrofracturing operations in Russia? Where are they carried out territorially?
Khodykin: Currently, frac jobs are carried out in Tyumen region. Among the specifics, very low winter temperatures should be mentioned. They significantly complicate any field operations. At present we’ve acquired experience enabling us working at temperatures ranging between 40 degrees Celsius  and minus 42 degrees C.
OGE: How did the frac technologies develop in Russia? Could you tell us the details of Weatherford frac technologies used in Russia? 
Khodykin: A breakthrough in frac technologies for Western Siberia occurred in early 2000s when chemical agents were invented. They enabled using water as a base fluid for hydrofracturing. Previously, hydrocarbon fluids were used for that purpose. However, with regard to West-Siberian fields, their most productive formations are very sensitive to water because of high clay content. With the advent of additional chemical agents, which prevented clay swelling, water could be used as a base fracturing fluid. The viscosity of water-base gels sometimes exceeds that of hydrocarbon fluids by scores. That fact made it possible to achieve a multiple increase in the injected proppant mass for the like wells. That, in turn, enabled the performance of frac jobs on wells, which previously were deemed unprofitable. Same may be said about restraining material: in time, the standard fractions of used proppant became more and more coarse. 
Weatherford prefers using water-base fluids for frac jobs. Gelling agents help to achieve higher viscosity for the less concentrated fracturing fluid. In this case damage to the productive bed is minimal. Also, we recommend using additives that affect various aspects of fracturing process.  
OGE: Who manufactures the units and equipment used for hydrofracturing operations? Can you specify the hydrofracturing fleet composition for this day?
Khodykin: Weatherford offers a reliable equipment ensuring the reduction of both the on-site installation time and the operation period. All our equipment is the most modern and the industry’s best. It makes possible around-the-clock operation. At present, for frac jobs in Russia we use three newest fleets manufactured by Stewart&Stewenson. 
In Russia the frac technologies market has already developed. That is why Weatherford will have to find its own niche. Taking this into account, our specialists have devised specification requirements for Weatherford units based on specifications superior to those of equipment currently used in Western Siberia. These units built after special order are equipped with chassis, heating and pumping systems and the motor-heating systems, enabling their operation at minus 49 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 45 degrees Celsius). Fracturing fluids have undergone same modification.  
A standard Russian hydrofracturing technology requires about three days to circulate the fluid because of the fluid volumes that have to be prepared using hot water and other liquids to ensure their mobility at low temperatures. Weatherford spends only a day on this operation. That is why a crew can do 17 fracturing operations per month instead of ten. The crew arrives to the well before the fracturing unit is delivered. So, the well is prepared in advance, and we may bring special equipment and install it on site without wasting any time on blending of chemical agents. Also, the unit’s design ensures a good off-the-road maneuverability. Standard hydrofracturing units used in Russia are imported from Canada and the U.S. Their design is that of a semitrailer that suggests the availability of access roads to the working site. In Russia, however, these units often have to be towed through the mud by a bulldozer. A specially designed coil tubing unit enables fluid feeding at minus  36 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 38 degrees Celsius). At the same time, the newest foreign-made units used in Russia today freeze at minus 31 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 35 degrees Celsius). 
OGE: What type of operations are the CT units used for? 
Khodykin: This unit is designed to clean the wellbore within the shortest time possible. Also, it may be used for well completion with the help of a nitrogen unit, for bottom-hole treatment, and some additional technological operations. 
At the moment, one coiled tubing is being used, but we consider a possibility to bring another one to Western Siberia. 
OGE: Please tell us more about these units. What is so special in their design that enables using them in the West-Siberian environment?
Khodykin: At present, a heavy coil tubing unit is used in Western Siberia which enables performing operations on wells as deep as 4,000 meters. It is mounted on Kenwort chassis which enable the unit’s good off-the-road manoeuvrability. Besides, the unit may operate at ambient temperatures as low as minus 36 degrees Celsius (the existing operational threshold for coil tubing units is minus 32 degrees Celsius). 
OGE: Could you give us any examples of effective frac jobs and the use of coil tubing units in the field? 
Khodykin: It would be more useful to show the mean numbers on the executed frac jobs: based on our customers’ data, the achieved flow rate compared to the estimates is 94 percent (by fluids) and 116 percent (by crude). I think, these numbers speak for themselves.
OGE: How many employees work for the company’s Fracturing Division? 
Khodykin: Acquisition of the best equipment ensures a good base, but to maintain and run this equipment properly you will need a team of qualified, devoted professionals. Great results may be achieved due to development of new effective fracturing fluids, yet it will happen only if the local personnel has a sufficient knowledge and skills in mixture blending. Our team includes carefully chosen, highly qualified chemists and engineers, as well as experienced maintenance specialists skilled in development of correct solutions and effective, timely and initially correct job fulfillment. In Russia we have the total of more than 200  specialists working for the Fracturing Division.  Some of them were trained abroad, and some here, in Russia.
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