How hydraulic fracturing can help solve energy needs

If Debanjan Guha Roy had his way, we would not have to depend on other countries for our energy needs

"Though India is the fourth largest energy consumer in the world, we hold huge reserves of shale gas across several sedimentary basins which can help meet our energy requirements. The key to tapping this energy is the proper and efficient use of hydraulic fracturing," says this research scholar with the IITB-Monash Research Academy.

Hydraulic fracturing is used extensively to stimulate wells and enhance production in the oil and gas industry. And this is where Debanjan—who is working on a project titled 'Modelling of fracture formation in sedimentary rocks due to fluid pressure', under Prof Trilok Nath Singh and Prof Jayantha Kodikara—is hoping to make his mark.

Potential shale gas basins of India (Source: Debanjan)

The Academy is a Joint Venture between IIT Bombay, India and Monash University, Australia. Opened in 2008, it operates a graduate research programme located in Mumbai that aims at enhancing research collaborations between Australia and India. Students study for a duallybadged PhD from both institutions, and spend time during their research in both India and Australia.

Debanjan has, characteristically, set his sights high. His project aims to first establish the geomechanical and fracture properties of hydrocarbon-bearing reservoir rocks from India under different temperature, pressure and saturation conditions—and then use this data to model single- and multiple-fracture propagation

"My project contributes to the development of technical knowledge of hydraulic fracturing in India. In future, this research work can be used as the benchmark to design an efficient welldrilling and shale gas exploration programme," he says

"There are three direct benefits from my research. Firstly, we are going to generate a huge amount of data on the geo-mechanical and fracture properties of reservoir rocks. This is a relatively unexplored area in India, so this data will be useful for other rock-mechanics researchers as well

"Secondly, we plan to employ advanced numerical models to simulate several possible geological scenarios of hydraulic fracturing. This will help companies design more technically and economically efficient hydraulic fracturing programmes

"And, thirdly, a better understanding of the subject will ensure that propagating fractures do not damage groundwater-bearing zones and remain within the reservoir zone. This mitigates the chance of groundwater contamination, which is perceived as a major environmental threat resulting from hydraulic fracturing."

How hydraulic fracturing works Source : http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-14432401)

Debanjan's project is multi-disciplinary—allowing him to combine the knowledge from Geology, Civil Engineering and Computational mechanics on a daily basis, and he can barely conceal his excitement. "Our work has received international recognition through two prestigious research grants from American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) and Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE). This is the first time AAPG has awarded such a grant to any researcher working in an Indian institute," he reveals. "The biggest challenge we face is scarcity of field data and lack of previous research in the Indian context. But this is also a great opportunity—as we are probably one of the first to do such work in India."

Prof Murali Sastry, CEO of the IITB-Monash Research Academy is equally excited. "Debanjan recently bagged an award for the best CPI in his PhD coursework. I, for one, will certainly be keeping an eye on this promising researcher. A large number of multi-national companies have set up R&D centres in India. It is important that IIT Bombay and Monash University are connected to the research agenda that is being crafted in these R&D Centres. Given its strong industry-facing intent, IITB-Monash Research Academy is an important vehicle that will help achieve this connection."

Research scholar: Debanjan Guha Roy, IITB-Monash Research Academy

Project title: Modelling of fracture formation in sedimentary rocks due to fluid pressure

Supervisors: Prof Trilok Nath Singh (Dept of Earth Sciences, IIT Bombay), Prof Jayantha Kodikara (Civil Engineering, Monash University)

Contact details: geo.debanjan@gmail.com

The above story was written by Mr Krishna Warrier based on inputs from the research student and IITB-Monash Research Academy. Copyright IITB-Monash Research Academy.