Keeping hydraulic fracturing safe

AWE and its predecessor companies have safely drilled more than 80 wells in the Mid West.

What does AWE do to keep hydraulic fracturing safe?

AWE has extensive protection measures in place to ensure that its exploration and production activities are undertaken safely, in accordance with government regulations, and without causing harm to people or the environment. These measures include:

To learn more about AWE’s hydraulic fracturing experience and results, view our comprehensive case study from the Woodada Deep-1 exploration well.

Well bore integrity

The structural and technical design of a well bore is fundamental in the planning process. For maximum protection, well bores contain multiple layers of steel casing and cement to form a multi-layer barrier separating the well bore and the subsurface environment.

In Western Australia, each well design is scrutinised by the Department of Mines and Petroleum and requires its approval before any drilling operation can commence.

  • To ensure and assess the well bore’s structural integrity, AWE continually pressure monitors the well bore and the annulus so we know that it remains structurally sound.
  • If pressure monitoring revealed a leak, our field managers are under strict instructions to shut down operations immediately.

Safe distance to surface aquifers

The distance to surface aquifers and the point at where a hydraulic fracture will be performed varies depending on the individual well’s location.

  • Typically, a hydraulic fracture in a vertical well will take place between 1 – 2 kilometres below the bottom of a surface aquifer.
  • This subsurface distance includes multiple natural and technical barriers including impermeable rock formations, in addition to multiple layers of steel and cement casing.
  • In a horizontal well, the distance between the surface aquifer and the point of the hydraulic fracture is often even greater in distance.

Water management and protection

As a company, we understand the value of water and the necessity to protect it during every stage of our operations. We have introduced baseline water quality studies and will be measuring and reporting the results of additional water quarter studies post-drilling to the regulators.

  • This monitoring process will provide AWE and regulators with warnings should any leakage occur although we are absolutely confident there will be no leakage due to the safety measures in place; however the monitoring will provide a level of comfort that those measures are working.

During the production phase of a well, which could last 10 to 40 years, we maintain well bore integrity with production tubing casing and packer systems, which isolate hydrocarbon production from the subsurface.

  • The internal well casings are protected by a number of measures including cathodic protection and corrosion inhibitor treatments.
  • Any decommissioned wells are fully rehabilitated with cement to prevent leakage.

Environment monitoring program

AWE conducts a series of baseline environment monitoring prior to the commencement of any drilling or site operations. This process is an important factor of our operations, and allows us to understand more about the environment in which we operate.

By obtaining a baseline of water, air, soil and other qualities, AWE can be certain that our engineering and technical mechanisms are working during drilling or hydraulic fracturing operations. In addition, environmental monitoring extends beyond the initial drilling phase to test water and air qualities after the operation has ceased.

WA Onshore Code of Practice

AWE participated in developing and is a founding signatory to the Western Australian Onshore Gas Code of Practice for Hydraulic Fracturing. The Code of Practice commits its signatories to high standards of work and environmental practice.

The Code of Practice provides a best practice framework for the safe, responsible and environmentally sound production of shale gas and tight gas in Western Australia. We are committed to complying with all guidelines when hydraulic fracturing is employed during the advanced exploration and production phases of our Perth Basin operations into the future.

The Code sets out guidelines for:

  • Community, landholder and stakeholder interaction
  • Protection of aquifers
  • Sourcing and use of water
  • Use of chemicals in hydraulic fracturing
  • Fluid flowback and produced fluids containment
  • Fugitive emissions
  • Continuous improvement

Download a copy of The Code of Practice to learn more.