During an initial round of hydraulic fracturing, operators use a mixture of water and chemicals to break apart rock before supplementing the fluid with sand, which opens rock fissures and facilitates the flow of oil and gas. Refracturing can allow companies to access resources in areas of rock left untouched by earlier fracking or drilling activities. Although operators have used the technique at vertical wells for over two decades, advancements in both horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have allowed for more efficient refracturing at horizontal wells.
Experts project that refracturing could revive production at approximately 75,000 wells across the United States. Proponents of the practice note that it can stimulate both natural fissures and bypassed pay intervals, and that it can be especially promising for older unconventional wells where operators used less sand, or “proppant,” and fewer drilling stages. By refracturing with more proppant and a higher perforation cluster density, operators stand a chance of reinvigorating production for a fraction of the cost of drilling a new well. Experts predict that as companies continue to optimize the practice, integrating key data techniques such as microseismic monitoring, refracturing will see increased use in the North American energy sector.