In order to explore for and produce oil and gas within a specified geographical area, Equinor must first be granted the right to drill. The right to drill can be acquired through government (for Federal or State lands), direct negotiations with mineral and surface owners, or through business deals with other companies that have those rights. Equinor’ s US Land Owner Relations pays royalties to mineral and surface owners for the use of their property.
Preparing the land
When the land has been selected and approved for drilling according to regulations and guidelines, an access road is created if required before land clearance begins. An area of roughly 5,000 square meters (54,000 square feet), the equivalent of a soccer field, is cleared for a single-well pad.
Where possible, we build pipeline gathering systems to transport oil, gas and water, reducing traffic and impact on roads and local infrastructure. We also limit site development to not disturb local wildlife, hunting and fishing seasons, and, when appropriate, use sound dampening rig technology.
Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing
The total time required to drill and complete a well depends on the target depth, the length of the lateral and the geological conditions encountered.
A well is first drilled vertically until it reaches just above the target zone, where it curves before drilling horizontally into the production zone. Geologists advise on the best place to begin horizontal drilling based on geological and geophysical evaluation.
After the well is drilled, multiple layers of steel casing are cemented in place to secure and isolate the well from the surrounding environment. Once isolation is complete hydraulic fracturing begins at the farthest end of the well and proceeds to the vertical wellbore. A mixture of water, proppant (sand or ceramic pellets) and chemicals are then pumped into the well at high pressure, creating fractures in the rock allowing oil and gas to flow into the wellbore and up to the surface.
Production and Marketing
Pipelines are installed for the transportation of water and produced oil and gas to and from site. In some areas, trucks or trains may be used to transport the resources to market.
In the absence of suitable infrastructure or storage for the natural gas which comes out of a well, it may be necessary to burn - or “flare” - the gas. The main by-product of this burning process is carbon dioxide. Equinor is committed to continuously working to reduce flaring at all our shale projects. By reducing flaring, we prevent wastage of a valuable energy source, and lower emissions. Our aim will always be to utilize the resource, industrially or commercially.
As operator, Equinor aims to stop all production flaring by 2030. In the US we are ambitiously working to reduce our methane emissions and carbon intensity towards a zero emissions future.
When the drilling and well completion steps are finished, all drilling equipment is removed. During production the bare minimum of equipment remains on site. According to the location, replanting may be performed.
When a well no longer produces oil or gas in economic quantities, the well is safely plugged. The well head is cut off below ground level and cemented closed to safely isolate and prevent any movement of fluids across reservoirs, into freshwater zones or up to the surface. The well pad is then removed, and the land is reclaimed or returned to its former state.