Zhu, Ziming (Colorado School of Mines) | Fang, Chao (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) | Qiao, Rui (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) | Yin, Xiaolong (Colorado School of Mines) | Ozkan, Erdal (Colorado School of Mines)
In nanoporous rocks, potential size/mobility exclusion and fluid-rock interactions in nano-sized pores and pore throats can turn the rock into a semi-permeable membrane, blocking or hindering the passage of certain molecules while allowing other molecules to pass freely. In this work, we conducted several experiments to investigate whether CO2 can mitigate the sieving effect on the hydrocarbon molecules flowing through Niobrara samples. Molecular dynamics simulations of adsorption equilibrium with and without CO2 were performed to help understand the trends observed in the experiments. The procedure of the experiments includes pumping of liquid binary hydrocarbon mixtures (C10 C17) of known compositions into Niobrara samples, collecting of the effluents from the samples, and analysis of the compositions of the effluents. A specialized experimental setup that uses an in-line filter as a mini-core holder was built for this investigation. Niobrara samples were cored and machined into 0.5-inch diameter and 0.7-inch length mini-cores. Hydrocarbon mixtures were injected into the mini-cores and effluents were collected periodically and analyzed using gas chromatography (GC). After observing the membrane behavior of the mini-cores, CO2 huff-n-puff was performed at 600 psi, a pressure much lower than the miscibility pressure. CO2 was injected from the production side to soak the sample for a period, then the flow of the mixture was resumed and effluents were analyzed using GC. Experimental results show that CO2 huff-n-puff in several experiments noticeably mitigated the sieving of heavier component (C17). The observed increase in the fraction of C17 in the produced fluid can be either temporary or lasting. In most experiments, temporary increases in flow rates were also observed. Molecular dynamics simulation results suggest that, for a calcite surface in equilibrium with a binary mixture of C10 and C17, more C17 molecules adsorb on the carbonate surface than the C10 molecules. Once CO2 molecules are added to the system, CO2 displaces C10 and C17 from calcite. The experimentally observed increase in the fraction of C17 thus can be attributed to the release of adsorbed C17. This study suggests that surface effects play a significant role in affecting flows and compositions of fluids in tight formations. In unconventional oil reservoirs, observed enhanced recovery from CO2 huff-n-puff could be partly attributed to surface effects in addition to the recognized gas-liquid interaction mechanisms.
The amount of trapped oil in hydrocarbon rich shale reservoirs recoverable through Enhanced Oil Recovery methods such as low salinity water flooding has been an ongoing investigation in the oil and gas industry. Reservoir shales typically have relatively lower amounts of swelling clays and in theory, can be exposed to a higher chemical potential difference between the native and injected fluid salinity before detrimental permeability reduction is experienced through the volumetric expansion of swelling clays. This fluid flux into the pore spaces of the rock matrix acting as a semi permeable membrane is significant enough to promote additional recovery from the extremely low permeability rock. The main goal of this paper is to determine how osmosis pressure build up within the matrix affects geomechanical behavior and hydrocarbon fluid flow. In this study we investigate Pierre shale samples with trace amount of organic content and high clay content as an initial step to fully understanding how the presence of organic content affects the membrane efficiency for EOR applications in shales using low salinity fluid injection. The same concept is also valid when slickwater is utilized as fracturing fluid as majority of the shale reservoirs contain very high salinity native reservoir fluid that will create large salinity contrast to the injected slickwater salinity.
The organic-rich reservoir shales typically have a TOC content of approximately 5 wt% or higher with TOC occupying part of the bulk matrix otherwise to be filled up by clays and other minerals. With less clay within the rock structure, the amount of associated clay swelling arising from rock fluid interaction will be limited. The overall drive of water into the matrix brings added stress to the pore fluid known as osmotic pressure acting on the matrix that also creates an imbalance in the stress state. The native formation fluid with salinity of 60,000 ppm NaCl has been used while 1,000 ppm NaCl brine is utilized to simulate the low salinity injection fluid under triaxial stress conditions in this phase of the study reported here. A strong correlation is obtained between the osmotic efficiency and effective stress exerted on the shale formation. The triaxial tests conducted in pursuit of simulating stress alteration under the osmotic pressure conditions and elevated pore pressure penetration tests indicated that the occurrence of swelling directly impact the formation permeability. These structural changes observed in our experimental results are comparable to field case studies.
Travers, Patrick (Dolan Integration Group) | Burke, Ben (HighPoint Resources) | Rowe, Aryn (HighPoint Resources) | Hodgetts, Stephen (Dolan Integration Group) | Dolan, Michael (Dolan Integration Group)
Scope: The management, treatment and disposal of hydraulic fracturing flowback fluids and produced water presents a major challenge to operators. Though the volumes of water are tracked closely during operations, the sources of that water are not well understood. The objective of this study is to apply a cost effective and proven technique, stable isotope analysis, along with an extensive sampling program (n>1,500 samples) to describe the contributions of variable water sources through completions, flowback and the production lifecycle of multiple horizontal, hydraulically fractured wells in the Denver Basin, Colorado.
Methods: The water stable isotopes of hydrogen (1H and 2H) and oxygen (16O and 18O) are conservative tracers and particularly advantageous because they occur naturally in these systems and rely on well-established scientific and analytical techniques. Sample collection is simple and does not require specialized equipment or operational downtime. 80 horizontal, hydraulically fractured wells completed in the Cretaceous Niobrara or Codell Formations were selected for this study. More than 1,500 samples were collected and analyzed in total, including: baseline samples of the source water used to stimulate the well, time series samples collected at daily or semi-daily intervals during the early weeks of flowback, and samples collected several months after the wells were brought on production. Samples of produced water were also collected from legacy wells in the field as well as offset wells being monitored for frac hits during completions.
Results: Samples of the near surface and shallow aquifer source water collected prior to hydraulic fracturing fell on or near the global meteoric water line (GMWL) as defined by Craig (1961). This isotopic signature is expected for modern water in aquifers charged by precipitation. In contrast, samples collected during flowback and production were significantly enriched in 2H and 18O. Furthermore, the magnitude of the isotopic difference between the source and flowback water increased with time until equilibrating after several months. This equilibrated composition is consistent for Niobrara and Codell wells in the field, as well as legacy wells sampled and consequently is hypothesized to be indicative of native formation water. The study did find exceptions, particularly with wells known to be connected to major fault or fracture networks. These samples deviated from typical formation water signatures, potentially indicating the migration of deeper sourced fluids or the vertical mixing of shallower fluids with Cretaceous waters.
Significance: The scale of this study is unique in the literature and provides novel and comprehensive insight into the dynamics of flowback and the sources of produced water in the Denver Basin. This study demonstrates that these data can clearly differentiate water injected during stimulation from native formation waters, as well as track the magnitude and duration of well cleanup. It can also identify wells that may be producing water with a unique composition due to fluid migration through faults or fracture networks or due to nearby well communication.
The Niobrara interval in the Denver-Julesberg (DJ) Basin contains several important unconventional hydrocarbon targets. However, the Niobrara is extensively faulted, which poses challenges for accurately landing and steering laterals in zone. Insight into small faulted structures in the Niobrara using traditional manual fault interpretation techniques is challenging because of the tuning thickness in seismic data. Fault throws less than the tuning thickness are difficult to interpret and incorporate into geosteering plans. Consequently, drillers frequently find themselves out of zone after crossing these small faults. Using independent information about fault locations and throws provided from multiple horizontal wells in the DJ Basin, this paper demonstrates the fault likelihood attribute (Hale, 2013) can resolve fault throws as small as 10 ft, allowing seismic-based well plans and unconventional project economics to be significantly improved.
Traditional geoscience data interpretation workflows in support of well planning can be tedious and time consuming, requiring manual fault picking on seismic profiles in conjunction with horizon tracing and gridding for structural mapping. The emergence of unconventional resource plays requires both more efficient geoscience workflows to support round-the-clock drilling operations and more detailed structural interpretations to help ensure laterals are steered along sweet spots. Pre-drill mapping of small-scale faults is therefore of particular importance for safe operations and helping ensure that lateral wells stay in zone.
Recent advances in fault-sensitive post-stack seismic attributes are changing the way subsurface professionals think about faults and how to map them in 3D space. In particular, the fault likelihood attribute (Hale, 2013) has provided a breakthrough improvement in the quality of seismic-derived fault attributes. Typically, the fault likelihood attribute is used in exploration settings to rapidly generate a broad-scale structural interpretation, being used both as a guide to manual fault interpretation and as input into automated fault extraction algorithms. This paper demonstrates the value of fault likelihood in development settings for assisting the well planning and geosteering process.
The Bakken Formation in the Williston Basin has become one of the largest oil producers in the United States. With the increase in activity, there has been an increase in water production. Normally, produced water is injected into the Dakota Formation, which lies about halfway between the Bakken target and the surface. In recent years, the Dakota formation pressure has increased, causing drilling problems for multiple operators across the basin. In some cases, drillers were able to kill saltwater kicks by increasing mud weight; in others, a fourth string of casing had to be deployed. Given the potential safety issues and increased drilling costs, accurate pore pressure predictions for the Dakota Formation will be extremely valuable to operators. Currently, there is no comprehensive geologic or reservoir model of the Dakota Formation in the Bakken play that can guide drilling decisions.
The Dakota Formation in the Williston Basin does not contain hydrocarbons, resulting in limited core and log data coverage. It is challenging to build reliable geologic models given the limited amount of reservoir properties, and matching model complexity to data availability is crucial. A geologic model was developed consistent with the depositional environment of the Dakota Sandstone. Resistivity, density, neutron and gamma ray measurements from well logs in this area were used to develop a robust petrophysical model. This model was calibrated against core data and actual performance of injection wells. Using these logs, a six-layer geologic model was built to represent the channelized reservoir.
The geo-model was used to build a reservoir simulation model, which covers large area including the company operated acreage. The simulation model was calibrated to injection rates and pressures of salt water disposal wells in the modelled area. Additionally, model prediction of formation pressure was matched to observations from drilling of operated Bakken oil wells and influxes from Dakota Formation.
The model provides insight in to the long-term formation pressure trend in the Dakota Formation in the basin. ConocoPhillips now uses the model pressure predictions as a decision-making tool for Bakken well drilling design (mud weight and number of casing strings), pad placement, development timing, and project capital allocation.
The authors include a geologist, a reservoir engineer specializing in petrophysics and a reservoir engineer specializing in simulation, modelling and economics. This work was done to improve drilling design and provide long range forecast for drilling hazards due to salt water disposal.
Zhu, Ziming (Colorado School of Mines) | Fang, Chao (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) | Qiao, Rui (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) | Yin, Xiaolong (Colorado School of Mines) | Ozkan, Erdal (Colorado School of Mines)
In nanoporous rocks, potential size/mobility exclusion and fluid-rock interactions in nano-sized pores and pore throats may turn the rock into a semi-permeable membrane, blocking or hindering the passage of certain molecules while allowing other molecules to pass freely. In this work, we conducted several experiments to investigate whether Niobrara samples possess such sieving properties on hydrocarbon molecules. Molecular dynamics simulation of adsorption equilibrium was performed to help understand the trends observed in the experiments. The procedure of the experiments includes pumping of liquid binary hydrocarbon mixtures (C10 C17) of known compositions into Niobrara samples, collecting of the effluents from the samples, and analysis of the compositions of the effluents. A specialized experimental setup that uses an in-line filter as a mini-core holder was built for this investigation. Niobrara samples were cored and machined into 0.5-inch diameter and 0.7-inch length mini-cores. Hydrocarbon mixtures were injected into the mini-cores and effluents were collected periodically and analyzed using gas chromatography. To understand the potential effects of hydrocarbon-rock interactions on their transport, molecular dynamics simulations were performed to clarify the adsorption of C10 and C17 molecules on calcite surfaces using all-atom models. Experimental results show that the heavier component (C17) in the injected fluid was noticeably hindered. After the start of the experiment, the fraction of the lighter component (C10) in the produced fluid gradually increased and eventually reached levels that fluctuated within a range above the fraction of C10 in the original fluid; besides, the fraction of C17 increased in the fluid upstream of the sample. Both observations indicate the presence of membrane properties of the sample to this hydrocarbon mixture. Simulation results suggest that, for a calcite surface in equilibrium with a binary mixture of C10 and C17, more C17 molecules adsorb on the carbonate surface than C10 molecules, providing a mechanism that directly supports the experimental observations. Some experimental observations suggest that size/mobility exclusion should also exist. This experimental study is the first evidence that nanoporous reservoir rocks may possess membrane properties that can filter hydrocarbon molecules. Component separation due to membrane properties has not been considered in any reservoir simulation models. The consequence of this effect and its dependence on the mixture and environmental conditions (surface, pressure, temperature) are worthy of discussions and further investigations.
Quantitative structural geology techniques can be used in conjunction with seismic data to define fault locations and geometry to reduce risk when planning horizontal wells. Unconventional plays in the past decade focus on basins characterized by largely horizontal stratigraphy and minimal faulting. However, even basins with minimal structure contain small-scale faults that pose unique risks to horizontal drilling. A fault with 100’ of throw or less can present well-bore stability issues due to natural fracturing and rock strength contrasts across faults. Seismic data can image these faults but because of their subdued nature, reliably interpreting their geometry and understanding the associated drilling risks can be difficult.
We present case studies examining seismic sections from the Denver basin where horizontal wells intercept small-scale normal faults. These faults are visible on the seismic sections where they cut across the Niobrara at 30 – 45°. Wells that pass above, below, or intersect the faults at high angles are generally drilled and completed without issue. At deeper levels, wells intersected the same faults at very low angles (where fault dips < 30°) and experienced drilling and completion issues. The transition from steep fault dips within the Niobrara to low fault dips at deeper levels is not well resolved in the seismic sections but clearly represents a drilling hazard that should be considered.
The geometry of the faults can be estimated using structural forward modeling and area-depth-strain (ADS) analysis. These established structural geology methods quantitatively relate seismically-imaged fold shape and horizon displacements to the underlying fault geometry. We use these methods to compute the deep fault geometry from the seismically observed folding of the Niobrara formation. We demonstrate that the wellbore collapse was related to fault angle and for a shorter lateral distance. This strongly suggests that the listric bends in these faults is a high-risk zone.
Relative permeability (kr) functions are among the essential data required for the simulation of multiphase flow in hydrocarbon reservoirs. These functions can be measured in the laboratory using different techniques including the steady state displacement technique. However, relative permeability measurement of shale rocks is extremely difficult mainly because of the low/ultralow matrix permeability and porosity, dominant capillary pressure and stress-dependent permeability of these formations.
In this study, the impacts of stress and capillary end effects (CEE) on the measured relative permeability data were investigated. The steady state relative permeability (SS-kr) measurements were performed on Eagle Ford and Pierre shale samples. To overcome the difficulties regarding the kr measurements of shale rocks, a special setup equipped with a high-pressure visual separator (with an accuracy of 0.07 cc) was used. The kr data were measured at different total injection rates and liquid gas ratios (LGR). In addition, to evaluate the impacts of effective stress, the kr data of an Eagle Ford shale sample were measured at two different effective stresses of 1000 and 3000 psi.
From the experimental data, it was observed that the measured SS-kr data of the shale samples have been influenced by the capillary end effects as the data showed significant variation when measured at different injection rates (with the same LGR). This suggested that the liquid hold-up (i.e. capillary end effects) depends on the competition of capillary and viscous forces. In addition, it was shown that it is more necessary to correct the experimental kr data measured at the lower LGRs. Furthermore, different relative permeability curves were obtained when the kr data were measured at different effective stresses. This behavior was explained as the capillary pressure was expected to be more dominant at the higher effective stress.
The results from this study improve our understanding of unconventional mechanisms in shale reservoirs. It is evident that the behavior of unconventional reservoirs can be better predicted when more reliable and accurate relative permeability data are available. The outcomes of this study will be useful for accurate determination of such kr data.
A. Alfataierge, J. L. Miskimins, T. L. Davis, and R. D. Benson, Colorado School of Mines Summary The 3D hydraulic-fracture-simulation modeling was integrated with 4D time-lapse seismic and microseismic data to evaluate the efficiency of hydraulic-fracture treatments within a 1 sq mile well-spacing test of Wattenberg Field, Colorado. Eleven wells were drilled, stimulated, and produced from the Niobrara and Codell unconventional reservoirs. Seismic monitoring through 4D time-lapse multicomponent seismic data was acquired by prehydraulic fracturing, post-hydraulic fracturing, and after 2 years of production. A hydraulic-fracture-simulation model using a 3D numerical simulator was generated and analyzed for hydraulic-fracturing efficiency and interwell fracture interference between the 11 wells. The 3D hydraulic-fracture simulation is validated using observations from microseismic and 4D multicomponent [compressional-wave (P-wave) and shear-wave (S-wave)] seismic interpretations. The validated 3D simulation results reveal that variations in reservoir properties (faults, rock-strength parameters, and in-situ stress conditions) influence and control hydraulic-fracturing geometry and stimulation efficiency. The integrated results are used to optimize the development of the Niobrara Formation within Wattenberg Field. The valuable insight obtained from the integration is used to optimize well spacing, increase reserves recovery, and improve production performance by highlighting intervals with bypassed potential within the Niobrara. The methods used within the case study can be applied to any unconventional reservoir. Introduction The Niobrara Formation is an organic-rich, self-sourcing unit composed of carbonate deposits in the form of alternating layers of chalks and marls. The Niobrara resource play is typically compared with the Eagle Ford Shale because of its high carbonate content. Early production can be dated back to 1976 from vertical wells in Wattenberg Field, although development was not deemed commercially viable at the time (Sonnenberg 2013). The shale play has become more attractive because of horizontal drilling and multistage hydraulic fracturing, allowing the Niobrara to be developed with overall success in the Denver-Julesburg Basin since 2009. The Niobrara Formation extends into several basins within the central USA involving Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Kansas.
Hydraulic fracturing has been widely used for unconventional reservoirs, including organic-rich carbonate formations, for oil and gas production. During hydraulic fracturing, massive amounts of fracturing fluids are pumped to crack open the formation, and only a small percentage of the fluids are recovered during the flowback process. The negative effects of the remaining fluid on the formation, such as clay swelling and reduction of rock mechanical properties, have been reported in the literature. However, the effects of the fluids on source-rock properties—especially on microstructures, porosity, and permeability—are scarcely documented. In this study, microstructure and mineralogy changes induced in tight carbonate rocks by imbibed fluids and the corresponding changes in permeability and porosity are reported.
Two sets of tight organic-rich carbonate-source-rock samples were examined. One sample set was sourced from a Middle East field, and the other was an outcrop from Eagle Ford Shale that is considered to be similar to the one from the Middle East field in terms of mineralogy and organic content. Three fracturing fluids—2% potassium chloride (KCl), 0.5 gal/1,000 gal (gpt) slickwater, and synthetic seawater—were used to treat the thin section of the source-rock and core samples. Modern analytical techniques, such as scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy-dispersive spectroscopy (EDS), were used to investigate the source-rock morphology and mineralogy changes before and after the fluid treatment, at the micrometer scale. Permeability as a function of effective stress was quantified on core samples to investigate changes in flow properties caused by the fracturing-fluid treatments.
The SEM and EDS results before and after fracturing-fluid treatments on the source-rock samples showed the microstructural changes for all three fluids. For 2% KCl and slickwater fluid, reopening of some mineral-filled natural fractures was observed. The enlargement of the aperture for pre-existing microfractures was slightly more noticeable for samples treated with 2% KCl compared with slickwater at the micrometer scale. In one sample, dissolution of organic matter was captured in the slickwater-fluid-treated rock sample. Mineral precipitation of sodium chloride (NaCl) and generation of new microfractures were observed for samples treated with synthetic seawater. The formation of new microfractures and the dissolution of minerals could result in increases in both porosity and permeability, whereas the mineral deposition would result in permeability decrease. The overall increase in absolute gas permeability was quantified by the experimental measurements under different effective stress for the core-plug samples. This effect on absolute-gas-permeability increase might have an important implication for hydrocarbon recovery from unconventional reservoirs.
This study provides experimental evidence at different scales that aqueous-based fracturing fluid might potentially have a positive effect on gas production from organic-rich carbonate source rock by increasing absolute gas permeability through mineral dissolution and generation of new fractures or reopening of existing microfractures. This observation will be beneficial to the future use of freshwater-and seawater-based fluids in stimulating gas production from organic-rich carbonate formations.