What is 'Re-fracking'

Re-fracking is an oil company practice of returning to older shale-oil and shale-gas wells, fracked in the recent past, but which are no longer in production. The company hopes to use new, more effective, extraction technologies to revitalize and capitalize on the well's resources. Re-fracking can be useful on those deposits where the shale produces low yields, as it may expand their productivity and extend their lifespan.​​​​​​​

BREAKING DOWN 'Re-fracking'

Re-fracking in its most basic form is shooting a mixture of mud, composed of sand, chemicals, and water into an underperforming well to boost production. Companies have been using this function to some degree for decades. The mixture helps to form cracks in the substrate and hold the cracks open once they develop. The breaks in the rock and soil allow the oil to flow more rapidly, boosting the amount that the company can extract from the formation.

Re-fracking has come to the fore recently as companies are now employing this long-used technique with vertical drilling processes and other technologies. These methods allow a company to access deposits which were previously useless.

To that end, companies are now re-fracking some wells sunk as little as three years ago. One technique in the re-fracking process involves sealing up larger cracks in the well's shale with small plastic balls so that new proppant may find its way into tighter cracks with the help of a higher pressure wellbore.

For example, organizations are re-fracking in the Bakken shale deposit of North Dakota to revisit some wells drilled between 2008 and 2010, due to improved hydraulic fracturing technologies. According to the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, companies have re-fractured more than 140 wells in the Bakken as of mid-2017. Most of the re-fracked wells saw an increase in production as a result. Similarly, companies are re-fracking in other well-established, large shale formations in the U.S. such as Eagle Ford and Barnett, both in Texas.

The Costs of Using Re-fracking

Oil and gas recovery may cost many millions of dollars to drill and complete, and some have a rather low recovery or production rate. Also, some areas have large sections of deposits that produce either nothing or next to nothing. The appeal of re-fracking is that it can allow new technology to extend the life of existing wells, where exploration and production companies already have found some success. This process limits the amount of fresh ground that must be opened up.

Another advantage for the exploration and production companies using re-fracking is that it often costs less than installing new vertical wells.

As is the case with fracking in general, re-fracking is controversial. Critics point to the same adverse effects it can have on the air, water, and soil of the areas where re-fracking happens. For example, one of the primary chemicals used in the re-fracking or fracking process is methane, which escapes into the atmosphere during extraction. Methane is 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide in trapping heat and causing greenhouse effects. Also, the release of this gas is detrimental to air quality in the vicinity of fracking sites.

(For more, see: Fracking Can't Happen Without These Companies) and (Why Schlumberger Is A Name You Should Know.)

RELATED TERMS
  1. Horizontal Well

    A horizontal well is an oil or gas well that is dug at an angle ...
  2. Oil Shale

    Oil shale is a sedimentary rock containing enough kerogen that ...
  3. Hydraulic Fracturing

    Hydraulic fracturing stimulates better flow in oil and gas plays ...
  4. Non-Hydraulic Fracturing

    Non-Hydraulic Fracturing is the process of fracturing rock at ...
  5. Canadian Association Of Petroleum ...

    The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is a lobby group ...
  6. Initial Production

    The initial production rate measures how many barrels of oil ...
Related Articles
  1. Insights

    Can Fracking Survive at $60 a Barrel?

    Can fracking survive at $60 a barrell?
  2. Investing

    Fracking Can't Happen Without These Companies

    With all the attention paid to fracking, what is are the good investment opportunities? Are the companies that extract oil and natural gas a good bet?
  3. Investing

    How Fracking Affects Natural Gas Prices

    Whatever you think of fracking, it has done one thing: kept the price of natural gas from increasing any more than it has.
  4. Investing

    The Cost of Shale Oil Versus Conventional Oil

    Fracking technology has brought new costs to the oil extraction process, and that has an impact on the profitability of the deposits being drilled.
  5. Financial Advisor

    Fracking ETFs Or Drilling Services Stocks?

    Hydraulic fracturing — otherwise known as fracking — is a hot topic. But how to invest in this trend?
  6. Investing

    Oil Rebound Could Bode Well for Fracking Stocks (RSPP, HES)

    Now that OPEC has cut production costs and oil prices have risen, will the oil and gas industry finally rebound? And will fracking stocks follow suit?
  7. Insights

    Chesapeake Sets Record with Massive Frack (CHK)

    Production jumps 70% after company pumps 25,000 tons of sand into the well, a process drillers dubbed “Propaggedon.”
  8. Investing

    Want To Start Trading Oil? Understand The Basics First

    The overall economics of oil extraction is that there is money in it - both for extraction companies and their investors.
  9. Investing

    Shale Oil vs. Oil Shale: What's the Difference?

    Discover the biggest difference between oil shale and shale oil, and which one is still a money-making proposition.
  10. Financial Advisor

    The US States That Produce the Most Oil

    Learn what eight states produce over 90% of U.S. oil, and how fracking has helped the United States become the world's largest oil-producing nation.
RELATED FAQS
  1. What are the effects of fracking on the environment?

    Even though fracking has the potential to provide more oil and gas to consumers, the process has long-lasting negative impacts ... Read Answer >>
  2. How does fracking affect oil prices?

    Read about the short- and long-term impacts of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, on global oil markets and oil ... Read Answer >>
  3. The Difference Between Term Deposit and Demand Deposit

    Understand the meaning of demand deposits and term deposits, and learn about the major differences between the two. Read Answer >>
  4. What percentage of the global economy is comprised of the oil & gas drilling sector?

    Read about a rising industry that already composes as much as one-twentieth of total global economic output: the oil & gas ... Read Answer >>
Trading Center