Fracture Diagnostics using Electromagnetic Methods

Physical Sciences : Petroleum

Available for non-exclusive licensing


  • Mukul Sharma, Ph.D. , Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering
  • Saptaswa Basu
  • Jeffery Gabelman , E-Spectrum Technologies, Inc.
  • Thomas Hosbach , E-Spectrum Technologies, Inc.
  • Mark Oerkfitz , E-Spectrum Technologies, Inc.

Background/unmet need

There are two current methods for fracture diagnostics: tracers and micro-seismic monitoring. Tracers are limited in that they can only provide information about fractures that are a few inches away from the borehole. Micro-seismic monitoring is very expensive and measures the created fracture dimensions rather than the propped fracture length. In addition, micro-seismic monitoring only measures the location of shear failure events instead of the opening location of the main propped fracture. For well operators, propped fracture length and orientation are the most valuable information needed for maximum production optimization. However, the two mentioned methods do not provide this information.

Invention Description

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have designed an invention that uses conductive proppants to establish communication between a hydraulic fracture and antennas placed in, above, or immediately outside the wellbore. The injection of a highly conductive proppant into a hydraulic fracture transforms it into a highly conductive sheet within a low-conducting rock medium. Utilizing principles of antenna design and novel use of electromagnetism, this invention can analyze the communication patterns between the fracture and the antennae in order to determine the length, height, and orientation of the hydraulic fracture. 


  • Reduces the amount of equipment required to perform fracture diagnostics
  • Analyzes characteristics that cannot be recognized by current methods
  • May eliminate the need of a secondary monitoring well
  • Potentially more accurate at determining hydraulic fracture geometry than current methods
  • More economically efficient than current methods


  • Analyzes properties for fracture diagnostics through fracture-antenna communication
  • Determines the length, height, and orientation of a hydraulic fracture
  • Utilizes principles of antenna design and electromagnetism
  • Highly accurate determination of hydraulic fracture geometry
  • Uses specialized conductive proppant and antennas

Market potential/applications

Markets and Markets Research reports that the global hydraulic fracturing market is expected to grow to $72.6 billion at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 11.8% by 2019. Hydraulic fracturing is essential for producing the most oil and gas possible from shale formations, in which the necessity for drilling unconventional shale formations is driven by the depletion of onshore oil fields. As of 2014, North America is the largest and most influential market in hydraulic fracturing due to its abundance of available shale reserves.

IP Status

  • 1 PCT patent application filed
  • 1 U.S. patent application filed