Eco-Living Magazine

Five Friday Facts: Technology and US Fuel

Posted on the 06 April 2012 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

Five Friday Facts: Technology and US FuelThe incredible drop in imported liquid fuels such as oil over the last 6 years is due in large part to technological breakthroughs in drilling and recovery techniques that has let the U.S. capture more of its natural (though non-renewable) resources. The debates over the pros and cons to this trend of using advanced technology to increase homemade production of traditional resources will be intense, but one thing seems certain: “We’re having a revolution,” says well driller Apache’s chief executive Steve Farris. “And we’re just scratching the surface.”

Here are a few facts about that trend.

  • In 2011, the country imported just 45 percent of the liquid fuels it used, down from a record high of 60 percent in 2005.
  • Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have been around for years, but over the last five years, engineers have fine-tuned these and other techniques, even as many environmentalists worry about their impact on water and air.
  • Some advances include: Computer programs have been developed to simulate wells before they are even drilled. Advanced fiber optics permit senior engineers at company headquarters to keep track of drillers on the well pad, telling them when necessary where to direct the drill bit and what pressure to use in injecting fracking fluids. Seismic work has become far more sophisticated, with drillers dropping microphones down adjacent wells to measure seismic events resulting from a fracking job so they can more accurately determine the porosity and permeability of rocks when they drill nearby in the future.
  • Just a decade ago, complete wells were fracked at the same time with millions of gallons of water, sand and chemical gels. Now the wells are fracked in stages, with various kinds of plugs and balls used to isolate the bursting of rock one section at a time, allowing for longer-reaching, more productive horizontal wells.
  • A well that might have taken 30 days to drill can be drilled in just 10, for a savings of $500,000 a well.

Image source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

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