Boosting Reliability for Natural Gas Extraction

Stress data from the CNBC are helping Schlumberger develop more reliable fluid ends. Replacing fluid ends is a multi-million dollar expense for the fracking industry. 

Source: Canadian Neutron Beam Centre (CNBC)

Schlumberger, a multinational oil and gas company, recently conducted research with the CNBC aimed at improving reliability and reducing costs of resource extraction. This research builds on a successful project with Schlumberger performed a decade ago.

A fluid end on the beamline. Fluid ends are used in both oil and gas wells to assist in extraction.

A fluid end on the beamline. Fluid ends are used in both oil and gas wells to assist in extraction.

The long-term competitiveness of Canada’s oil and gas industry depends in part on technologies that make development of unconventional oil and gas resources more economical. One rapidly growing method for unconventional natural gas is hydraulic fracturing (known as “fracking”), where high-pressure solution is pumped into older gas wells to crack rocks, to allow gas to flow more easily. The area of the pump that receives the greatest wear over its lifetime is the fluid end. Replacing fluid ends in many wells is a multi-million-dollar expense for the global fracking industry.

Reducing these costs by increasing the reliability of fluid ends is a development goal of Schlumberger, an innovative multi- national firm providing oilfield services in Canada and around the world. To strengthen fluid ends for service in the high-pressure environment of a well pump, compressive stress, that is, “good stress” in this case, is purposely created in the material during manufacturing. In 2001, collaboration between Schlumberger, Queen’s University and the CNBC verified that the good stress remains in the fluid ends even after being put into service.

Building on this previous success, Schlumberger returned to the CNBC in 2012 to investigate whether this good stress would also persist in a newly-designed fluid end intended to increase reliability. Schlumberger will use the residual stress measurements taken at the CNBC to validate their finite- element analysis model that predicts the amount of stress in the material. Being able to confirm that the model is in agreement with measurements is a first for this new fluid end. Due to the success of this research project, Schlumberger expects its collaboration with CNBC to pay many dividends in the long and short term.