Efficient Exploration and Extraction

Bellatrix Exploration

Even with the advent of alternative fuels, energy sources, and materials, oil remains one of our most fundamentally important resources. Perhaps one day there will be a different way, but until then, our best option is make sure that we leave the drilling to the best of the best – to the men and women who are always thinking of new ways to accomplish the task so that we can look forward to a brighter tomorrow.

Bellatrix Exploration LTD has been doing just that since 2009, when production was just 6500 barrels of oil a day. The company was formed on November 1st from a Trust Company called True Energy Inc. The company is now a mid-sized exploration company that has boosted its production to over 19 000 barrels of oil a day. The company is located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada where its two main plays are in the Pembina area. The company acquires most of its inventory from the Cardium, which provides light oil, and Notikewin, which contains liquids rich natural gas.

“We are very focused into the Brazeau, Ferrier, West Pembina area of Alberta,” explains Brent Eshleman, Executive Vice President. “That’s our main Focus, and where we drill all of our wells. We’ve had great success in the Cardium where we are the number one producer, not from the number of wells drilled but from an efficiency and profitability standpoint. That’s not just from our statistics; the rating comes from reports done by various independent analysts. On average ours are the best out of all the Cardium wells in the areas we drill – with the highest average production rates and the best return.”

The Cardium alone represents the second largest deposit of oil within Canada, the first being the Oil Sands located in North West Alberta. There are hundreds of large exploration companies who are drilling into the formation so one may wonder, why does a mid-sized company have the best production and efficiency? The answer lies in a method of drilling that has revolutionized the industry while making it as Earth friendly as possible.

“We drill in the middle of the Cardium reservoir so that we can open up the entire zone,” explains Mr. Eshleman. “We drill our wells a bit differently than our competitors and they are noticing that and starting to drill the same as us.”

In the past, vertical wells were being drilled and used to recover oil and gas in a very inefficient way; not all the gas and oil that could have been recovered ever was, simply due to the little area to which a vertical well was limited. Horizontal wells have been in use for around two decades but there was always the issue of how to complete them which was never really perfected.

Over the past eight to ten years, there have been some substantial advances in technology – less in changing the way that the horizontal wells are being drilled, but more in the area of completion techniques. These new techniques make it possible to extract more oil and gas per well through recovery of tight oil, tight gas, and shale gas.

“Up until the last half a dozen years or so, most companies were still using vertical wells which required a certain amount of porosity and permeability,” explains Mr. Eshleman. “This meant that when a company was drilling into tight sand or shale, the vertical wells produced a very small amount of oil or gas and so they were uneconomical. With the advent of new technology that allows us to complete these horizontal wells using multiple stages, we are able to open up all this oil and gas that was never recoverable before.”

Bellatrix utilizes a horizontal drilling process that uses ports that are used to fracture in different stages, every 80 metres or so. Through every one of these ports it is possible to recover gas and oil, making it a very efficient process. The company has just finished drilling two of the longest horizontal wells that have ever been drilled into the Cardium, at 5300 metres and 5500 metres from the surface to the end of the well bores.

“This is why North America is so flush with gas right now; it’s because of this technology, and that’s why the US gas production is at a historical high. In Canada it’s opened up in the Cardium. In the last two or three years there have been over two thousand horizontal wells drilled. This is a massive, massive resource.”

From an economic standpoint, this has been a positive move for the country in terms of job creation and royalties that are being paid. Old sites are being opened up again; where there are areas that have been completely depleted of oil and gas by exploration companies in the past, there is now new life and potential because of this new technology that can extract what was previously not recoverable.

A company may also use the horizontal drilling technology to effectively drill for oil on a huge play from one central location. Instead of drilling twenty vertical wells, Bellatrix can drill two or three for the same yield, preserving more of the forest and natural environment. With such techniques, drilling for oil and gas could soon be no more damaging to the environment than building a warehouse or a parking lot because of the limited amount of surface space needed for the above ground platform. Bellatrix is also able to drill on multiple levels within the same well, making recovery even more efficient. According to the Bellatrix Corporate Presentation, this method is called a stacked pay development scenario for hydrocarbon bearing reservoirs.

We are indeed in the year 2013; in the 1960’s, we drove gas guzzling station wagons that not only burned gas but quite often ended up burning oil as well. Today we have hybrid cars and trucks that can travel 1130 kilometres on a single tank of gas. In the years to come, there will surely be things that the next generation looks back on and snickers at, thinking the technology outdated. As in anything else, in the oil industry there are steady and continuous improvements; some take longer than others to arrive, but with the help of top exploration companies like Bellatrix we can bridge the gap between drilling for oil and preserving the environment.

In the realm of technology, innovation often precedes efficiency, and in the past, drilling for oil was just that: inefficient, and often damaging to everything within the area. As we can see today, the technology has begun to advance beyond that stage, and companies like Bellatrix are taking it to a whole new level.

October 17, 2017, 4:23 PM EDT

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