The main theme of the Third International ShaleScience Conference were the methods of completing shale deposits of natural gas in the Polish geological environment. For the first time, the discussions and conclusions were based on the so-far unpublished results of exploration work.
During the two days, eminent Polish and foreign experts in geology, geophysics, and petroleum engineering discussed the methods of releasing natural gas from shale rock. The results of well tests carried out so far show that the Polish geological conditions are unique, diversified, and different from the well-explored deposits in the US or Canada. Consequently, the technologies used in North America cannot be directly applied to Polish deposits. The experts concurred that it is currently necessary to focus on developing methods of releasing petroleum and gas that will be effective in Polish shales.
Paweł Poprawa (Energy Studies Institute) pointed out the historical differences in the process of emergence of the different unconventional deposits in the world. It is his opinion that the Polish well test results should only be treated as the beginning of the development of the science behind the exploration of Polish deposits. The participants concurred that the few well tests carried out in Poland are not representative enough for a reliable appraisal of the deposits.
Richard Lewis (Schlumberger, one of the largest companies providing services for the oil sector) believes that the results of the work carried out by ORLEN Upstream in the Lubelskie area have confirmed that the main difference between the Polish shales and their American counterparts is their lower Total Organic Content (TOC) value. Nevertheless, production from deposits with these parameters can be economically feasible, as evidenced by examples from the US. In his opinion, Polish shales also have advantages. The example of the Berejów well shows that the shale layer is uncommonly thick, which “coupled with their moderate quality parameters makes them an interesting challenge as far as finding methods of their completion is concerned.”
The participants emphasised the progress made in Poland over the last three years with respect to the science behind unconventional deposits. “I was impressed by the results of the treatments done by ORLEN Upstream. You did it well. Perhaps the details need some ironing out, but it’s clear you understand the local conditions well,” summarised Prof. John McLennan (Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Utah).
“This year’s ShaleScience conference was unique in that we no longer talked about probable assumptions, but about facts and a realistic picture of the Polish deposits. Having shared experiences and listened to unbiased opinions, we are convinced that we need to focus on the optimisation of the hydraulic fracturing methods, taking into account the geological obstacles we know of,” said Wiesław Prugar, the President of the Board at ORLEN Upstream.
A sizeable part of the second day of the conference was devoted to the environmental challenges related to hydraulic fracturing operations. Since the public debate about the environmental impact of fracturing is full of misconceptions, it was deemed necessary to provide scientific information about issues related to water resources, atmospheric emissions, acoustic climate, and waste management. Particular attention was paid to managing the waste related to fracturing, including the disposal of flowback water. The experts emphasised that, in spite of a number of challenges, the waste management process is always carried out in strict compliance with the highest safety standards, providing an airtight system of waste collection and processing and, consequently, minimising the impact of waste management on the environment.
The 3rd ShaleScience Conference was organised by ORLEN Upstream, and its partners included the leading Polish and international research institutions: the AGH University of Technology, Krakow, the Oil and Gas Institute – National Research Institute, and the US Energy and Geoscience Institute – University of Utah. The Ministry of the Environment was the honorary patron of the conference.