Shale Gas Pads
The most exciting energy development over the past decade in North America’s energy industry has been the rapid development of new fracturing technologies. This makes previously unobtainable massive gas deposits locked in non-porous shale rock formations readily available. Shale gas is one of a number of "unconventional" sources of natural gas, including coalbed methane and tight gas. Conventional natural gas is formed when methane molecules migrate from their original location to an area where they are trapped by an underground geological feature resulting in a higher concentration of methane molecules. These conventional sources are easier and cheaper to produce. However, the production from these accumulations is declining. In order to replace that production, the oil and gas industry is turning to fossil fuels that were previously thought of as too expensive and difficult to produce. New technologies, such as multi-stage hydraulic fracturing or “fraccing” in industry terms, combined with horizontal drilling, are making it easier and cheaper to produce shale gas.
Despite being difficult to drill, there is potentially 30 1012 cubic metres (1,000 trillion cubic feet) of shale gas in Canada if not more. Normally, only 20 per cent of the gas can be recovered, but this is growing with advancements in drilling and fracturing technology. In North America, there are several shale gas opportunities, shown in the map below. While the potential for Canadian shale gas production is still being evaluated, the principal Canadian shale gas plays are the Horn River Basin and Montney Shales in northeast British Columbia, the Colorado Group in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Utica Shale in Quebec and the Horton Bluff Shale in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
The new innovative and non-intrusive drilling methods being utilized to free the gas from the shale formations are most economical when multiple wells are drilled from a large pad. Although these pads are larger than conventional pads, the total impacted area footprint is smaller due to fewer roads and less pads being required. This leaves the vibrant surface forests and wildlife relatively undisturbed with simple roads, drilling pads and gas collection facilities occupying a miniscule position above ground relative to the large areas subsurface where the gas is being efficiently extracted. The extraction is a long-term process that requires the operators to maintain year-round access to the pads and sites in all weather conditions including harsh near-arctic winters with heavy snowfalls along with extremely wet springs. Those freeze-thaw cycles followed by wet springs wreak havoc upon normal road/pad construction methods. Canadian Aboriginal Remediation Environmental Services (CARES) Ltd. was founded in late 2005 specifically to introduce the PowerCem Technologies alternative construction processes in Canada with an initial focus on these demanding non-conventional projects.
After a number of successful commercial demonstration projects in 2007 and 2008, forward thinking firms began to adopt the CARES Ltd. PowerCem based solutions as an economical and far superior alternative to the standard clay-gravel-wood matting methods traditionally utilized. In 2009 CARES Ltd. was given a final challenge to stabilize a pad encompassing 30,000 m2 that would need to support a huge triple “walking” drill rig with a combined rig/pipe weight exceeding 2,000,000 kilograms. Thus both extreme static and dynamic loads would have to be successfully supported by CARES Ltd. RoadCem enhanced soil cement on top of highly plastic clay soils with a high water table underneath. The gravel required was reduced by over 90%, better clays didn’t have to be sourced as insitu native soils were sufficient and millions of dollars worth of wood matting didn’t have to be manufactured and placed. The final mix design was a RoadCem cement-bioash stabilized base of 300-400mm thickness with a small amount of road crush gravel for a friction/wear course. Construction time was significantly reduced and the benefit not only met the high load demand of the initial drilling cycle, the stabilized base provides years of trouble free access and a simple future reclamation.
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