Updated: Apr 20, 2018
That is a set of shelves just to the left of my desk here at Summit Sales & Equipment. You can see them obviously, but for the most part, it doesn't contain anything terribly surprising: business directories, printed marketing materials, stuff like that. However, those shelves in the middle quickly caught my attention with their bright orange foam thingies and other random parts.
At the base of the shelves, by the way, is Henry's water bowl. A few seconds after I took this, Henry swatted at the thing, looked at me, and wagged his tail. That means "get me water, new guy, and the good stuff out of the cooler, not from the bathroom sink again." I'll do a post on Henry someday.
Anyway, on my second or third day here, I picked up something from the middle shelves, labeled '2.94" Frac Ball,' dusted it off (there was a lot of dust on the thing) and started playing with it. Nothing terribly ambitious in that department - it has some weight to it and I don't want to break anything - but if I need to have a good think, I'll often toss it back and forth between my hands. If nobody's watching, I'll slo-mo a shortstop about to fire over to first base.
Here's what it looks like, just to complete the picture.
So one day last week, I was messing around with it, and was interrupted (fortunately not while doing the shortstop thing) by someone who suggested that I should maybe look into what the ball actually does. That seemed like a good idea, so here we are.
It took a while to find something on the internet that spoke on my level, but this article was a good start.
Before real energy production can begin, rigs have to drop down these big balls into wells. They are commonly made from plastic, aluminum or various composite materials.
These frack balls usually measure 1-12 inches in diameter. Their purpose?
These things act as plugs that isolate different areas of the wells. That way, it’s easier to pressurize and extract the goodies you want from underneath the ground. They’re used a lot — in 20 to even 30 different stages throughout the entire process.
A bit high on myself for my ability to understand something in plain English, I moved forward to the 200-level class. There, I learned that the balls are an essential part of one method of creating the fractures used to extract from shale, as they help build pressure at each segment of a horizontal well by stopping the hole in a sliding sleeve and forcing ports to open that allow fracturing fluid to the formation outside. Here are some illustrations from a patent application for a disintegrating version of the ball to help with that picture. I put Figure 2 first since that's actually first chronologically, before the ball has entered to open the ports. You'll have to do the 90-degree rotation mentally.
From the post I linked just before that:
Frac balls, typically made from an Engineering Plastic, are critical components in cutting edge downhole tooling used in hydraulic fracturing operations. Typically when creating multiple fractures in a wellbore, a completion string is placed inside the borehole with frac ports and sliding sleeves spaced between each section. In order to actuate each sleeve a properly sized frac ball is pumped along with the fracturing fluid inside the well.
Each ball is smaller than the opening in each of the previous sleeves but larger than the hole in the sleeve it is intended to open. The ball shall seat within the sleeve, closing the hole and exerting pressure to slide open the sleeve, opening the frac ports. Once the ports are open the fracturing fluid is diverted to the open hole space outside of the completion assembly causing the surrounding formation to fracture.
At the completion of each fracturing stage, the next sized ball is injected into the well causing the next sleeve to open and so on until all of the sleeves are open and multiple fractures are created within the well. The main advantages of this process being the speed with which the well can be penetrated hence reducing cost.
So basically, there's a good reason my toy is exactly 2.94 inches in diameter, a number I found oddly specific at first. It's simple, yet brilliant, like the life hack where you put your phone in a glass to amplify it.
By the way, 330.264.1153 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you need a set. Super effective in fracking, and they can also do other things.