rials and throw them away after each
use. They’re looking for hardened mate-
rials for seats and sealing surfaces.”
Perry says more robust valves are
essential. “Because of the 24-hour oper-
ation of the fracing process, I like to see
valves that are more durable, that can
withstand that type of service duty. We
would like a product that reduces the
need for maintenance and greasing of
“We maintain people on the operation around the clock who do nothing
but pump grease on the valve after
every frac,” he explains. Retorquing is
also a frequent requirement. The frac
stack will vibrate “so we also have to
continually retorque all the valves in the
frac stack and production tree,” he
says. His company looks for ways to
reduce that need.
As far as sealing ability, “we need
valves that can withstand more abrasive
fluids on the flowback. Pressure rating,
metallurgy and size are important of
course, but a balanced stem design is
critical with these high pressures and
differentials during fracing and flowback,” Perry says.
On the cleanout side, “after the final
stage of fracing, we will rig up a coil tub-
ing unit and go in under pressure with a
positive displacement motor and a mill
and drill through all those composite
bridge plugs,” Perry says. This is
because, “We have to clean all the stages
out to the bottom of the well, out through
the lateral. We need specialized equip-
ment rigged up to the tree and the frac
stack; that allows us to take that large
amount of fluid, abrasives, plug material,
clean it up through a separator.”
The valves on the tree have to be able
to handle that work, he says. “The well
stream needs to be clean of all debris
prior to turning it over to our production
While technological advancements are
responsible for much of the increase in
production, alliances between producers
and frac companies have also played a
large role in the industry’s success.
Perry mentioned an innovative oper-ator/vendor model his company uses.
The vendors have fit-for-purpose fracing
equipment that can be used 24 hours, 7
days a week for the six to eight weeks it
takes to complete a three-well, multi-pad operation.
“Not all equipment in the industry
can pump around the clock, so we have
alliances with frac companies and have
worked with them to develop certain
equipment that we feel can handle this
type of service. Tri-plexes are available
to most everyone in the industry but
most pumps are not for continuous service like this,” he explains.
“Our frac spreads are outfitted with
heavy-duty pumps. The vendors have the
pump trucks, the tractors for the pumps.
The blender, hydration unit, all the high
pressure manifolds and valves, they’re all
provided by the service company.
For valve manufacturers, the potential
for growth goes far beyond valves actually used in the shale field.
With the shale gas drilling and production boom, the oilfield specialty
chemicals market has also grown, and
plants treating the water for production
and pipelines, such as Crestwood Midstream Partners and Mountaineer Keystone’s $70-million, 42-mile (68 kilometer) system, are also markets for
However, “There are major concerns
with gas prices at such low levels,”
Peterson says. “Opinions are the rigs
exploring for gas could drop off by 100
to 200 rigs in the short term.
“On the upside, the belief is that
these resources will be redirected to
exploration for liquids. There are major
shale areas, such as the Eagle Ford and