Over the past decade, there has been confusion among credible news outlets regarding the differences between drilling and fracking.
Oil and gas developments start with geoscientific prospects within an area of land believed to contain a significant enough volume of oil and/or natural gas to provide economic benefits. Two primary processes must take place to access this oil and natural gas: drilling and fracking.
Drilling is the process of putting a relatively small hole in the ground, then securing that hole with a steel pipe surrounded by cement. This is done by using a drilling rig - not to be confused with a 'fracking rig,' which doesn't actually exist. The drilling rig has three primary components: a derrick, a drill pipe, and a top drive. These components work together in a circulatory effect to pump fluid into the ground, then allow cuttings to rise to the surface.
Depending on the size of the wellbore, this process can take anywhere from just three days to up to a month. Oil and Gas Companies must first be given a permit to drill from regulatory agencies in the state before a drilling location can be constructed and carried out by experienced professionals. The drilling process reveals whether or not the prospective area contains oil and natural gas.
On the other hand, fracking occurs after the well and hole are secured with casing and cement. Drilling and fracking cannot occur simultaneously. Fracking is the most critical step of the completion process but cannot be enacted until other vital steps are carried out. First, the completions process calls for the casing to be perforated with holes. To do this, a service company uses a perforating gun on the end of a wireline tool-string. Once the tool reaches the correct depth, an engineer in the control van activates the guns on the tool-string to create anywhere from 10 to 30 half-inch holes in the casing.
After that has been completed, fracking crews pump water carrying beach sand into the oil-bearing rocks through the created holes. More perforating holes are then shot into the casing up-hole from the first stage and a composite plug is also set to ensure there is a physical barrier between stages. Modern wellbores are typically up to 2 miles in length and can be completed with 50 stages of fracking.
"Fracking and drilling are both vital steps to extract oil and natural gas. However, they are not the same. False reporting has identified fracking rigs as drilling rigs, and it's crucial to be able to spot the difference," stated Adam Ferrari. An Oil and Gas Company cannot frac a well that has not first been drilled—the drilling is the starter, and fracking is the closer.
Knowing the differences between drilling and fracking can help individuals to better understand oil and gas processes occurring in their state or other relevant communities.