Hydraulic fracturing is the long established process of creating fractures in rock formations to release the natural gas trapped inside.
Hydraulic fracturing has taken place for decades in the UK, with the first treatment thought to have taken place in the mid-1970s. Our site in Elswick was fractured in 1993 and generated around 1MW of electricity seven days a week in its early life. Hydraulic fracturing is common in the North Sea, where it has been performed thousands of times.
Hydraulic fracturing stimulation was first used in Kansas, US in 1947. Since then, over 2.5 million fracture treatments have taken place globally. Significantly, 60% of onshore natural-gas production comes from hydraulically fractured wells.
The hydraulic fracturing operations carried out by Cuadrilla in the Bowland Basin take place at depths generally greater than 6,000 feet.
Hydraulic fracturing is only one phase of the well development process.
In advance of performing Hydraulic Fracturing, our engineers and geologists analyse all available technical data, including rock properties and wellbore mechanics, to ensure that the process is undertaken safely.
Fracturing fluid – 99.95% water and sand – is released at high pressure into the rock formation to create millimetre-sized cracks. These cracks are held open by sand grains contained within the fluid, allowing the gas to flow into the wellbore and be collected at the surface.
The hydraulic fracturing process is usually performed at the start of the life of a well. Several rounds of fracturing lasting no more than one to two hours each are usually required and this process can be spaced out over several weeks while readings are taken and assessed. Once fracturing is completed the well can go on to produce for 30-50 years without the need for further treatments.
To minimise the amount of fracturing time required and to ensure site integrity, we undertake extensive studies in advance of the operation to plan the process thoroughly.