It is my great pleasure to become part of the ResFrac team. They are a talented group of hard-working people. I first met Mark over two years ago at an SPE Conference. He was passionate about building the ResFrac model and starting a DFIT consortium. Range Resources joined the consortium and I became familiar with its parent-child capabilities through a few trial projects. I could see early on that the tool filled a gap in our industry.
I feel strongly about ResFrac because it allows a paradigm shift to begin for engineers (and even geologists) where one person can quickly become proficient with both fracturing and reservoir simulation modeling. Before ResFrac, the completion engineers typically ran a frac model while the reservoir engineers ran an analytical or finite-difference simulation model. The two then passed datasets between each other and often waited while the other completed their work. More times than not, these were single well projects which could not handle parent-child relationships, especially in the frac models.
ResFrac provides a straight-forward tool where any engineer can be taught to perform two valuable skillsets. Parent-child (and now even grandparent) scenarios dominate our planning and field decisions. The model provides a means to evaluate stress shadowing, depletion effects and re-pressurization/restimulation opportunities among many other real-world scenarios. For those who become proficient using ResFrac, I’m convinced it will be a positive job differentiator over their careers.
On another tangent, we hear that future engineers will be data scientists and study vast amounts of I/O signals from our horizontal wells. I believe that some answers can only be found through intense modeling that integrates all geologic, PVT, geomechanics, drilling, completion, stimulation, and production data. Combined with other diagnostic data, a calibrated frac/simulation model can be used to investigate various field opportunities quickly and more cost effectively than by brute force with drilling too many trial wells.
I still hear those words in my head from one of my greatest mentors Dr. Steve Holditch. In the 1980’s-90’s, Steve built a world class consulting team for the new unconventional world that focused on solving difficult problems to improve well profitability. At S.A Holditch & Associates, we developed and sold easy to use software products for our own consultants and for our customers. I believe ResFrac is in a similar position to make an impact to the oil and gas community. One of my favorite quotes from Steve was “we always reserve the right to get smarter”. To that end, we often designed field diagnostic trials that taught us something new about fracture growth, effective fracture half-length, and production mechanisms. We could then include these findings into our modeling efforts as we become smarter.
So, here’s a little bit of history that carried me through the rapids of technology over the last 40 years. As a teaser, my initial high school calculator had 4 functions and cost a whopping $100. My parents were not happy to say the least. In college we improved significantly to the HP-41, but it cost over $250. We advanced to typing Fortran code into an IBM mainframe computer, printing out a hundred or more 3”x 6” cards and running them through a reader. This occurred in our simulation course at Penn State, which was taught by our beloved Professor Turgay Ertekin. Dumpster diving became a favorite late-night activity (think Bluto in Animal House) as some students sought out thrown away cards by those more gifted in coding. And if you’ve ever run cards through a reader, you know the fear of a deck explosion, the dreaded mangled edges and of course……hanging chads.
After Penn State I started my awl field career (my buddy’s Dad gave us that term) in Bakersfield, CA with Getty Oil in 1982 and after a few years Texaco purchased Getty. In the reservoir group we used the THERM simulation model on the company’s Cray supercomputer in Houston. The Cray probably cost millions and while state of the art, it had as much horsepower as your Apple Watch. While heavy oil dominated the well count, I was fortunate to be the completions engineer in the Southeast Lost Hills light oil play in the mid-1980’s. We separately fractured the McDonald, Antelope, and Reef Ridge shales (porcilinites as we found out later) by pumping massive 750,000 to 1.2 million lb crosslinked borate jobs down vertical wells at 50-60 bpm. I remember using 60 lb gel for our pad to frac the McDonald shale because it contained chert and 40 lb gel often screened out when 3 or 4 lb hit the perfs. We experimented and found that a 60 lb crosslinked borate was a thing of beauty and opened a frac wide enough to carry 10 lb all day long. It was here that I became familiar with the earliest versions of FracPro and performed one of the first microseismic treatments with Jim Fix at Teledyne Geotech. I think it took them 6-9 months to show us any results. We also used RA tracers with Tom Bandy’s new company ProTechnics. It was in the desert of Lost Hills, CA that I found out how cool it was to be a frac dude.
After transferring to the R&D facilities in Houston in 1988 (Getty and Texaco had separate centers), I was introduced to new DOS prompt software applications used by many smart PhD researchers. Then Windows came out and allowed us to run multiple applications at once from a DOS prompt. Pretty amazing back then!
In 1990, I left Texaco and moved to Pittsburgh PA to work with S.A. Holditch & Associates (SAH) as a completion/frac and reservoir engineer. I owe that move to my good Penn State buddy Tim Hower. I was the first non-Aggie engineer in the company but became an honorary member of their proud traditions. We built our own software in College Station and I remember that every new Windows release was a day of terror and uncertainty to see if our software products would run. Microsoft controlled everything. Steve was always barking about them in his gentle Aggie way (lol).
Our software products were state of the art for tight gas sands, coalbed methane, and shale. Those formations were finally ready to be exploited in the US because the industry was running out of conventional oil and gas reservoirs. We worked for GRI on many projects and enjoyed a 10-year run performing numerous field experiments. We developed our in-house analytical and finite-difference tools for various field and parametric projects, but we also sold PVT, pressure transient analysis, and hydraulic fracture models. The teams performed consulting projects around the world because of our reputation and our extremely talented group of engineers, geologists, geophysicists, and petrophysicists. I learned more in 2 years of working in unconventional reservoirs than I had in 8 years of conventional reservoirs. They were night and day different.
I could go on and on with stories from our Holditch days and maybe I will in a future blog. 1990-1996 was a very fun time to be in the industry that’s for sure. I can think of so many dear friends that went on to bigger roles. Many of the SAH folks later went on to start/work for oil and gas companies, consulting companies, or in academia. We keep in touch and see each other periodically, especially at such a sad event as Steve’s passing. He will be remembered as one of the leading frac gurus of the last 50 years. Another SAH veteran Brigadier General Dr. Bill McCain recently passed. He was my first boss and I learned a lot from him.
So, who are the rising young consulting teams that can fill the gap with those retired or passed away? While there are several companies building that reputation, I think the team at ResFrac can be one of them by offering their unique product and providing an expert consulting team. In some ways, they remind me of the initial team at SAH and I’m proud to be part of their efforts.
In a future blog, I will cover several industry highlights for unconventional reservoirs from 1996 to the present. Until then, take care and thanks for considering the ResFrac team to help you make more economic wells.