Exploration & Production Process
Safe and responsible energy development is revolutionizing U.S. energy supply, as well as providing jobs and other economic benefits to local, state and federal governments.
Unconventional drilling requires the same basic steps to move a well from an idea through completion and production. Below are six key steps to the energy development process.
- Seismic – During this step, studies of the Earth’s subsurface are conducted to increase our understanding of the local geology. Geologists, engineers and other experts collaborate to identify a site that will ensure access to the targeted oil and gas reservoirs.
- Site preparation – Sites are selected in consideration of several factors: safety, the surrounding environment, nearby property owners, and vehicle/pipeline access. By drilling multiple wells at a single location, Extraction is able to reduce the number of well-pad sites and in turn, reduce impact to the environment and inconvenience to the community
- Drilling the well – It takes approximately 8 to 10 days to drill a well. During this process, multiple layers of protective steel casing are cemented in the ground to ensure nothing can get into, or out of, the wellbore being drilled. The depth of these wells is on average 1.5 miles below the earth’s surface and more than a mile of impenetrable rock separates the oil and gas reservoirs from the potable water table.
- Completing the well – After the rig leaves, completion activities begin as soon as the equipment arrives and may take between three to five days per well. Each well is pressure tested before beginning completion activities to ensure the well is structurally sound. During this process a mixture of sand, water and a small proportion of other ingredients are pumped into the well to facilitate the release oil and natural gas. For example, guar is a food ingredient used as a thickening agent in completion mixtures. It is also a main ingredient found in Jell-O and chewing gum. All ingredients used in hydraulic fracturing mixtures are publicly available on a per-well basis at www.fracfocus.org.
- Monitoring the well – Once a well begins production, excess equipment is removed. Only the wellheads, separators and storage tanks remain. Oil and natural gas produced by the well travels via truck or pipeline to market. Any water produced from the well will also be hauled or piped offsite for disposal. During this phase, the wells are constantly monitored (24/7) through automated equipment and if any issues arise, wells can be immediately and remotely shut-in. As an extra precaution, the well is checked daily by an operator who goes onsite to ensure all equipment is comprehensively maintained.
- Reclaiming the site – At the end of the process, the well site is reduced to a much smaller size and fenced. The surrounding area is “reclaimed” with native vegetation and landscaped to camouflage the well site and help blend in with surrounding vegetation.