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The leading operators working in the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota are hoping to drastically increase the volume of recoverable oil by billions of barrels, just by drilling wells closer together.
During the initial years of the oil industry, developers raced against one another to erect as many wells as possible, believing that more wells meant more oil. Unfortunately this was extremely inefficient, with too many wells being drilled whilst producing very little oil and gas.
The problem is that oil and gas wells extract hydrocarbons from a large area. The exact area is impossible to accurately determine as the oil fields cannot be directly observed. This causes a slight dilemma, because if the wells are drilled to close together, they obstruct one another, draining oil and gas from the same areas, reducing efficiency, and lowering the well pressure. If the wells are too far apart then precious hydrocarbons will be left in the ground, stuck between the drainage areas of the wells.
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After the poor performance from the extravagant number of wells drilled at the beginning, some states, in the 1920s and 1930s, began to restrict the number of wells in any given area in order to improve production and efficiency.
Well operators working in shale formations have also abided by these laws, but it now turns out that fracking wells drain much smaller areas than thought, meaning that the wells can be drilled much closer together. If production does begin to noticeably increase then the drilling costs will fall and shale oil and gas could become much cheaper to produce.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com