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Fort Worth Finds Natural Gas in Barnett Shale

Mon July 07, 2008 - West Edition
David H. Recht

With energy prices soaring, the city of Fort Worth has found that it is sitting on a wealth of natural gas deposits found within the “Barnett Shale.”

A drive through some of the oldest parts of town reveal a unique sight: gas wells.

The wells can be found in the midst of neighborhoods, commercial centers and even government facilities. Just as there were cranes on top of the skyscrapers across the Houston skyline in the 1980s oil boom, now gas wells are becoming present-day iconic Texas figures on the Fort Worth landscape.

One of the biggest prospectors in the market today is Chesapeake Energy. Chesapeake has made substantial investment not only in the Barnett Shale, but in the community, branching southward from its headquarters in Oklahoma City, Okla.

However, residential gas collection and distribution is not easy. Engineering, permitting and, in the case of drilling in close proximity to residential areas, working with community relations starts the gas collection process.

Then, gas must be compressed and transported from wells through neighborhoods, and this can be disruptive. However, advances in directional drilling do enable drillers to harvest increasingly large amounts of gas with minimal disruption.

According to Mike Offner of Weatherford International, vertical drilling of up to 8,000 ft. (2,438 m) can be supplemented with horizontal drilling of an additional mile.

Directional Drilling navigation is made possible with equipment such as the Weatherford Spectrum Surface System.

According to Weatherford’s specification sheet, the system is a relational database.

During drilling, the coordinates of the drill bit are plotted in real time, allowing adjustments to be made to the coordinates of the bit during drilling.

The heart of any drilling system is the shale shaker. This vital piece of equipment filters out the gritty pieces of the Barnett Shale from the drilling fluid (or “mud”), so that the fluid can recirculate and thus continue the drilling process.

The Derrick FC313 shale shaker can handle 695 gpm (2,630 Lpm) of mud, with an excited rotation velocity of 1,450 rpm.

In some cases, though, air can be used cost-effectively.

“The air equipment is used to drill the shallower formations at a faster rate of penetration,” Offner said.

Workers use a Ingersoll Rand XHP 900/350 primary air compressor to provide 325 psi (22 bar), following aftercooling.

The compressor uses a Caterpillar 3406 TA (four-cycle) diesel engine.

As the industry continues to grow, technology is continuously evolving, leading to more powerful and efficient equipment.

Increasing energy prices have led to gas royalty income from both private and public property.

Various municipalities on the western side of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex have passed ordinances regulating drilling, and many government agencies, such as the city of Forth Worth, Tarrant County and DFW airport have executed lease agreements with private drilling interests.

Homeowners associations also have leveraged mineral rights associated with their respective residential subdivisions to generate revenue from gas drilling.

This results in royalty payments to property owners, and, in the case of government agencies, added revenue to provide public services.

There are growing pains, however, associated with the drilling.

General concerns about noise from drilling, impact to infrastructure from gas recovery operation (such as impact to local streets not designed for heavy truck traffic associated with drilling), and concerns about pipelines transporting the gas through residential areas are all valid.

As the industry continues to grow, local ordinances have expanded to regulate gas drilling in proximity to homes.

However, as gasoline prices continue to climb, and as electricity prices also rise, the demand for natural gas will continue to grow, leading to more improvements in technology, and evolution in local ordinances and regulation over gas drilling in urban settings. CEG

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