Russia Adopts Texas Drilling to Revive Soviet Oil Fields
By Stephen Bierman
Fracking isn’t just for shale. In Russia, producers are importing techniques from the U.S. to squeeze billions of dollars of extra oil from Soviet-era fields.
TNK-BP, Russia’s third-largest producer, will use hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling in almost half the wells it sinks this year, a sixfold increase in just two years, the company said. OAO Rosneft (ROSN), OAO Lukoil (LKOH) and OAO Gazprom Neft have similar plans.
So-called fracking, the process of blasting oil from rock by injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into wells, has been used for years in Russia’s Siberian oil heartland to stimulate production. What’s new is allying it with horizontal drilling, turning the drill-bit 90 degrees to bore horizontally to reach more oil-bearing rock. The pairing was perfected in the U.S. to get economically viable flows out of shale deposits. Used in Russia, producers are recovering 15 percent more crude from aging deposits.
“This is a very big change in the way the company approaches production that has literally happened in the last year and a half,” said Gazprom Neft’s deputy chief executive officer. “We have made breakthroughs.”
Enhancing production from decades-old fields is needed to maintain Russia’s crude production above 10 million barrels a day for a fourth year, a figure that surpasses Saudi Arabia and the U.S., said Cliff Kupchan, an analyst at Eurasia Group. Apart from the Russian state, which gets half its revenue from oil and gas, the other winners are suppliers of people and equipment to frack wells including Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB), Weatherford International Ltd. (WFT) and C.A.T. Oil AG.
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