The current horizontal drilling technology can extract 20 percent or 30 percent of the gas trapped in the shale, The Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram reported Sunday. New techniques could increase that to 50 percent or more, a difference that could mean hundreds of billions of dollars for producers.
An earlier breakthrough enabled horizontal drilling, the practice of burrowing through the rock parallel to the ground.
Newer advances allow producers to extend horizontal drilling to as far as 6,000 feet, drill simultaneous adjacent wells, and place wells closer together, the newspaper said.
Chesapeake Energy, for example, paid $180 million for the right to drill at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, and plans to recoup its investment by crisscrossing horizontal wells underground, something like a patchwork quilt.
Though the techniques are still somewhat experimental, the newspaper said, the potential payoff is encouraging more producers to try them.
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