From the top of the pile

February 1, 2015

One of the best things about this job is I get to talk to some very interesting and innovative people, some who have shaped our industry and indeed may be playing a small part in shaping the world.

This month I got to speak to Dan Themig, president, CEO and co-founder of Packers Plus. It’s been several years since I’ve spoken to him, but I knew that this was one company we wanted to include in this edition focusing on fracking. They are always innovating, always coming up with new technologies. Once again, they didn’t disappoint.

I asked him about the fact several years ago the larger oil companies in southeast Saskatchewan used to specifically mention the use of Packers Plus technologies when doing their corporate presentations, but those name-drops don’t occur these days. Acknowledging they “did kinda get the boot” in Saskatchewan, he replied that they were the team that won the regionals then went onto the Olympics. In other words, they’re playing on the global scale now.

“We got beat up in Saskatchewan a little bit, but trust me, we’re far from done there, delivering technology that will really move the industry forward,” he said.

We discussed at length three of their new technologies that are being launched right now. They have another four that they aren’t ready to talk about yet, but are in the works.

One system, the Diffusor, is designed to add “complexity” to fracs. Instead of one, big fracture, it’s supposed to make many smaller fractures with each stage, thereby increasing pathways into the wellbore. It’s activated by balls dropped into the system.

The second is the Quadrant System, which allows up to four frac ports to be fracked at the same time, dramatically reducing the amount of time it takes to frac an entire well.

The third is their QuickFRAC IV is also a ball-activated system, but one that will allow up to 100 stages in a well with a singular technology. You read that correctly – 100 stages. Wow. When I first started doing this job nearly seven years ago, 16 stages seemed like a big number.

But the most interesting part of our discussion was that of adding additional laterals, or legs, to existing wells. He feels that almost any well in Saskatchewan is a candidate for re-entry and the addition of another horizontal leg.

Re-entry can be a dirty word, depending on who you talk to. One person I spoke to several years ago talked about how their firm had a rig dedicated to re-entries, and it was the most accursed thing he had ever dealt with. But Themig said they can deal with casings down to 4.5 inches.

In this region, PetroBakken had been drilling a substantial number of multi-lateral wells. But that company, now Lightstream, is only operating one rig in this region for the foreseeable future, and Themig says not many people are doing multi-laterals these days.

If you can have a successful re-entry program, think of the tremendous savings that can be had. The lease is already built. The pipeline and battery are probably already in place. Your associated gas likely has infrastructure to take care of it. The vertical well portion, including casing and cement, are done and (hopefully) paid for. If the first leg was a decent producer, presumably the second, with newer technologies, should do well too. Those technologies could include more frac stages, and maybe this complexity thing he spoke of. Maybe it will perform better than the first? I don’t know.

When oil producers start looking at falling production due to natural decline curves (quite steep in Bakken wells, I might add), maybe adding a second leg might not be such a bad idea. It keeps you drilling, and adding production, at a substantial savings.

In my editorial last month I wrote about how OPEC driving prices down will not kill off the shale oil industry, it will simply cause it to find new ways to produce more oil with less money. Perhaps one of those ways will be re-entries of existing wells.

Let’s hope some companies give it a shot, because it sure beats racked rigs on the side of the road.