A producing well, quite simply, is defined as a well that produces water, gas, or oil. Wells that exclusively produce natural gas are called gas wells, while those producing natural gas plus hydrocarbons are called oil wells.
In a commercial sense, a producing well refers to a well that has produced sufficient gas or oil for the organization behind its development to make profits by selling the yield from it.
Traditionally, we used vertical wells to extract gas and oil from a natural reservoir. The well was drilled for thousands of feet into the ground to access the gas or oil in the subsurface deposit.
Later, the development of horizontal drilling allowed oil and gas extraction from multiple reservoirs using a single well angled horizontally into the earth.
After drilling into the ground, the process of hydraulic fracturing is utilized to bring this oil to the surface. Brine, which is a mixture of chemicals, sand, and water, is injected into the ground at high pressure, fracturing the rock and releasing the natural gas or oil.
As a result, the gas or oil flows to the surface, from where it is sent for further processing.
Why Are Producing Wells Used?
Production wells turn the shale plays rich in organic materials into oil and natural gas hotbeds. Although the Utica shale is not rich in oil, experts believe that it will produce an abundance of natural gas.
The U.S Energy Information Administration reports that nearly 27% of the electricity produced in the country in 2013 was made through natural gas. Since it is cleaner to burn natural gas rather than coal, the use of production wells is increasing.
Does a Producing Well Produce Both Oil and Natural Gas?
In 2011 and 2012, over half of the wells produced natural gas and oil. However, despite this, most conventional methods estimating the production of natural gas and oil regard both resources as separate.
Producers of natural gas and oil adjust their targets based on the current market demand and the prices of the natural resources in the market to maximize their profits.
By studying geology carefully, the producers can maximize the production of hydrocarbons, such as gases and liquids, that earn them higher profits based on the market prices at the moment.
How Much Oil Does a Well Produce?
In 2018, the overall oil production in the U.S was 12.0 million barrels a day, while the figure reached 12.8 million barrels a day in 2019.
Most of the natural gas and oil production in the country comes from wells producing 100 barrels to 3,200 barrels per day.
The production capacity of a producing oil well depends on its depth. A shallow well can produce half a barrel a day or even less. Meanwhile, a deepwater oil well can produce up to 10,000 barrels in a day.
The median producing oil well production in the U.S is five to 10 barrels a day. Typically, if a well produces 100 barrels per day, it is considered a good well.
When producers drill a new well into the shale rock, it will release an abundance of gas under pressure. Therefore, the yield of a new well is quite high. Over time, the gas is released from the well, leading to a reduction in the overall pressure.
As a result, the yield declines with time. According to the Geology graphical representation of a producing well, the well has a production capacity of 2.0 million cubic feet per day. In the first year, there was a rapid decline in the yield.
After that, the decline slowed, remaining gradual.
Average Lifespan of a Producing Well
On average, a producing well can last for 20 to 30 years. Newer technologies are aimed at making a well last longer so that it can earn royalties to the producers and investors for an extended period.
A well’s life cycle has different stages, such as exploration, operation, development, and abandonment. In some cases, these stages may be followed by another stage, called reclamation.
Producing Well Classifications
During its life cycle, a well can be classified into six categories. The initial stage is when the well is active, while the last stage is when it is reclaimed. Here are the six classifications of a producing well:
As the name indicates, an active well is a well that is currently producing natural gas or oil. A well does not have to be producing both oil and gas to be considered active. If it is only producing one hydrocarbon, it is still an active well.
A well is considered inactive if it has not produced oil or gas in a year. In most cases, this is temporary as the production can begin again at a later stage.
A suspended well is also not producing any oil or gas. However, it is safely secured and can start producing later in the future.
The process of bringing a suspended well back to its active stage requires substantial effort.
An abandoned well is shut down permanently. It has been wellhead, plugged, and removed. The site is considered secure and safe by the producers and the regulators. The companies producing oil at the site have to show a report with details of mitigating contamination.
They also have to prove that the well has been remediated as per the local and federal guidelines.
The licensed well owner has to reclaim the well site and manage the abandoned or suspended well. However, if a suspended well does not have an identifiable owner, it is called an orphan well.
A natural gas or oil company that is no longer actively producing the hydrocarbons has to remove its equipment from the site and reclaim the area.
After the producers have remediated and reclaimed the site as per the regulatory requirements, the site is considered reclamation certified.
By now, you should be substantially educated about how a producing well works and its lifespan.
The laws regulating a producing oil well or natural gas well differ across states, so it is imperative to read your local legislation.