Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)
What is hydraulic fracturing?
Hydraulic fracturing (sometimes referred to as ‘fracking’) involves the use of high pressure to crack open hydrocarbon- bearing zones. Water, mixed with a small proportion of sand and chemicals, is then pumped underground at a high enough pressure to split and keep open the rock to release natural gas that would otherwise not be accessible. This process was first applied in the late 1940s when Amoco, now part of BP, performed the first fracture treatments in the Hugoton field in Kansas. The fracturing operation results in a significant increase in the surface area exposed within the formation; from 1,000 to 100,000 times more making it possible to produce natural gas reserves that could not otherwise be reached.
Guar Gum plays a crucial role in the fracking process. An important property is its dispersibility. A polymer disperses well when the solvent wets each individual particle before hydration starts. By adjusting particle size, chemical treatment and through special additives, guar and guar derivatives can be easily dispersed with minimal agitation. Guar Gum is used to thicken the fracturing fluid so that it can carry graded sand into the fractured rock. The sand then serves as a proppant to keep the fracture open, creating a route for oil or gas to flow to the well bore.
Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing video
Animation of Oil Drilling – Using Mud fluids
Hydraulic fracturing, was first performed with crude or refined oils as the fracturing fluids and emulsions of caustic and tall oil were developed to
act as the proppant transport medium. Water based fluids, in which starch was added to provide viscosity, were introduced in 1953. Guar Gum came into use primarily because of its viscosifying and friction reducing properties in addition to its safety in handling.