"Faster-cheaper, faster-cheaper." It sounds like a train going over railroad tracks. That's the new-borne and permanent fate of shale gas. ExxonMobil is brandishing a shale gas fracing technique, one that significantly cuts shale gas drilling costs, and cuts fracing time from weeks down to mere days (link):
In the 1980s, frac jobs could take months. Now a complicated frac typically takes a couple of weeks. Exxon's Tolman developed a method to fracture a Piceance Basin well in three days, and he thinks he can compress it to 24 hours.
The key is to conduct every activity simultaneously. Everybody thought that was impossible until Tolman persuaded his colleagues to experiment.
While working on a natural gas well in La Barge, Wyo., in the 1980s, Tolman noticed something strange. Natural gas was flowing out of the well without pushing out or damaging the wire that operators had dropped into the well.
Years later, while descending an elevator at Exxon's corporate building in Houston, Tolman had an idea. Why not use this phenomenon to perform simultaneous functions on a well? That's exactly what he is doing at the site in Colorado.
Plenty of other natural gas producers operate wells in the Piceance Basin, but Exxon controls the sweet spot on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management.
The company has been producing small amounts of natural gas in the basin since the 1950s, with interests on 300,000 acres, holding enough gas to heat 50 million homes for a decade.
Exxon began a significant expansion here in 2007, after scientists developed drilling and fracing methods that could make the operations profitable. Exxon now operates seven rigs in the Piceance Basin and produces 100 million cubic feet a day. Project executive Branch said the company could eventually increase to 1 billion cubic feet a day.