Texas Tech patents simpler fracking

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With global demand for underground resources, such as oil and natural gas, forecast to grow, well stimulation techniques are becoming increasingly important. Researchers at Texas Tech University have developed new techniques to enhance these processes, such as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking".

New fracturing techniques seek to enhance production of trapped hydrocarbons, but the researchers contend that while the techniques are practiced across the industry, they do not fully take into consideration the mechanical properties of the subterranean formation. Two new patented designs are intended to rectify this.

The first new patent pending design is a modified zipper frac, where fractures are initiated in a staggered pattern to induce stress, not only at the tips, but also in the middle area between fractures.

A second patent has been filed to cover an optimization technique that maximizes production through variable spacing between hydraulic fractures. Fractures are not spread equally; instead, measurements are taken after the first fracture to determine placement of subsequent fractures.

"This is a lot simpler to apply [than current fracking techniques], however the prospective company will need people to design it," said Mohamed Soliman, George Livermore chair professor and department chairman of Petroleum Engineering. "Not only do we have the technology, we have the pending patents, we have developed the software, and we have the people who can do it for them."

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