North Dakota Patent of the Month – March 2021

Hydraulic fracturing creates cracks in rock formations and releases oil and natural gas products. The sliding sleeve method of fracking uses permanently placed tools with constant downhole pressure to reduce the time needed. This method often faces issues where the ball component is not seated properly in the sleeve and fails to open the fracture zone. This failure has downstream effects, causing downtime while an investigation is conducted, damaged or missed zones, and possible contamination of the products. Watson Well Solutions, LLC has designed a method to improve the reliability of the sliding sleeve method.

They designed a pressure response fracture report tool which can determine if the ball has reached the fracture zone and opened up that zone. Until now, the only alternative was to run sensors along the flow ports – but this time intensive and not guaranteed to work. The tool has two sets of flow ports. A sliding sleeve covers these ports and then exposes one at a time to the wellbore, no longer blocking the fluid flow. As the ports are exposed, a pressure increase is observed at the surface. Once a certain pressure level is reached, indicating the ball has begun traveling to the next zone. At the same time, the sliding sleeve begins shifting to expose the second flow port. When the second flow port is exposed, the pressure drops noticeably, indicating that the ball has reached and opened the next zone. This provides a noticeable indicator to the operator that the fracture zone is open, offering more certainty to the job.

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