How Microseismic Plays a Role in the Worldwide Shale Revolution

By Mike Mueller
VP, Technology & Development

The context in which MicroSeismic (MSI) performs the vast majority of its business is the shale oil and gas business in the US and Canada as well as around the world. Part of the excitement and fulfillment of working in this environment is the newness of the technology – MSI is in the business of creating value for the operators developing shale oil and shale gas trends with new technology -- as well as the tremendous impact that the shale plays are having on the US and world energy outlook.

The facts are astounding: in the previous five years, the Eagle Ford play in south Texas has gone from 50,000 barrels of production per day to just under 1.5 million barrels per day; the Bakken play in North Dakota has surpassed 1 million barrels per day; the Permian Basin of West Texas, one of the industry’s oldest and largest oil producing provinces over the past 80 years, is now approaching 1 million incremental barrels per day of unconventional production. All told, US oil production has risen from 5.5 million barrels per day in 2008 to just under 9 million barrels per day with predictions that this could plateau above 14 million barrels per day over the next ten years. US Gas production has risen from 55 billion cubic feet per day in 2009 to  a rate of 65 BCFPD at the end of 2013 and is expected to reach 80 BCFPD in 2018.

The implications of the US led change in the worldwide energy landscape range from active consideration of US oil and NGL exports to a rewiring of the international geopolitical landscape with fading influence for OPEC and Russia.

So, what do these big trends have to do with an oilfield service provider like MSI? As a participant in the shale revolution, MSI is part of the assurance that the hydraulic fracturing being implemented today happens as it’s expected to happen, that groundwater is not impacted, and that oil and gas extraction is properly characterized wherever frac’ing is happening.

The microseismic method is the best tool the industry has to characterize the volume of rock impacted by hydraulic fracturing.

MSI’s methods allow the operator to not only know where the fractures went, but also where they didn’t go. Where the fractures go is important information for the operators who wish to understand their production, and where they didn’t go is important for the regulators who wish to protect ground and surface water resources. Finding ways to do ever better hydraulic fracture characterization is not only fun and fulfilling; it answers important economic and societal questions surrounding the development of shale resources.

There is another important role that hydraulic fracture characterization with microseismic will help. Beyond the geometry of the hydraulic fracturing – the initial characterization referred to above – is the opportunity to understand and characterize with real field data the depletion of shale reservoirs undergoing production. Not only can microseismic monitoring help in understanding the initial production of a shale well or pad, but methods to estimate the placement of proppant using microseismic information will allow us to estimate how the well will perform over time and how the well’s production will decline. This life-of-well or life-of-field application will ultimately tie microseismic to the two most fundamental aspects of the upstream oil industry – rate and reserves – in the context of the unconventional, shale gale plays.

As part of MSI’s drive to continuously push back the frontiers of microseismic applications, the company recently announced the next generation of its advanced real-time analysis technologies. These new capabilities will help operators understand their fracturing effectiveness in real-time, see how stresses change in their shale reservoirs, optimize stage and well spacing, and achieve a better picture of the accessed reserves and recovery. You may find more about all this by viewing the Advanced Real-Time Webcast by clicking here. Please let us know what you think by contacting us at any time. We look forward to your feedback.

Mike