Content of PetroWiki is intended for personal use only and to supplement, not replace, engineering judgment. SPE disclaims any and all liability for your use of such content. Hydrocarbons from unconventional and more difficult to produce resources such as shale gas, shale oil, tight gas, and tight oil, coal seam gas/coalbed methane and hydrates.
Coalbed methane (CBM) is adsorbed onto the coal surfaces exposed through the matrix microporosity and the naturally occurring fracture or cleat system. This cleat system typically is water-filled, often with fresh or slightly saline water, but may also contain some free gas. Calculation of gas-in-place for a unit volume of the coal layers being developed does not follow the "porous media" approach of determining effective: Instead, the gas-in-place is measured physically through the recovery of coal samples, the number and distribution of which are important to the estimation of total gas in place pertinent to the property being evaluated. Cored samples are transferred carefully from the core barrel to canisters, which are sealed immediately and transported to an analysis laboratory. In analysis, two measurements are taken.
Case studies can be instructive in the evaluation of other coalbed methane (CBM) development opportunities. The San Juan basin, located in New Mexico and Colorado in the southwestern U.S. (Figure 1), is the most prolific CBM basin in the world. It produces more than 2.5 Bscf/D from coals of the Cretaceous Fruitland formation, which is estimated to contain 43 to 49 Tscf of CBM in place. In the 1970s, after years of encountering gas kicks in these coals, operators recognized that the coal seams themselves were capable of commercial gas rates. CBM development benefited greatly from drilling and log data compiled from previous wells targeting the deeper sandstones and an extensive pipeline infrastructure that was built to transport conventional gas. These components, along with a U.S. federal tax credit and the development of new technologies such as openhole-cavity completions, fueled a drilling boom that resulted in more than 3,000 producing CBM wells by the end of 1992. The thickest Fruitland coals occur in a northwest/southeast trending belt located in the northeastern third of the basin. Total coal thickness in this belt locally exceeds 100 ft and individual coal seams can be more than 30 ft thick. The coals originated in peat swamps located landward (southwest) of northwest/southeast trending shoreline sandstones of the underlying Pictured Cliffs formation. The location of the thickest coals (Figure 1) coincides with the occurrence of overpressuring, high gas content, high coal rank, and high permeabilities in the San Juan fairway ("fairway"). The overpressuring is artesian in origin and is caused by water recharge of the coals through outcrops along the northern margin of the basin. This generates high vertical pressure gradients, ranging from 0.44 to 0.63 psi/ft, which allow a large amount of gas to be sorbed to the coal. Coal gas in the San Juan basin can contain up to 9.4% CO2 and 13.5% C2 . Chemical analyses suggest that thermogenic gases have been augmented by migrated thermogenic and secondary biogenic gas sources, resulting in gas contents ranging up to 700 ft 3 /ton. Coal rank in the fairway ranges from medium- to low-volatile bituminous and roughly coincides with those portions of the basin that were most deeply buried. Southwest of the fairway, Fruitland coals are typically 20 to 40 ft thick and are considerably underpressured with vertical pressure gradients in some areas of less than 0.20 psi/ft. The low gradients are attributable to low permeabilities, low recharge rates along the southern rim of the basin, and hydraulic isolation from the fairway area.
Unlike conventional reservoirs, coal seams are the source, trap, and reservoir for CBM. A comparison of the two reservoir types shows profound differences in reservoir properties, storage mechanisms, flow mechanisms, and production profiles. CBM reservoirs are layered and contain an orthogonal fracture set called cleats, which are perpendicular to bedding. Because the coal matrix has essentially no permeability, CBM can be produced economically only if there is sufficient fracture permeability. Relative to conventional gas reservoirs, coal seam permeabilities are generally low and may vary by three orders of magnitude in wells separated by distances of less than 500 m.
A useful first step in the characterization of any new coal area is to compare its characteristics with those of successful CBM projects. Table 2 summarizes the characteristics of several successful projects in the US and includes parameters related to reservoir properties, gas production, gas resources, and economics. The table shows that successful projects have many similarities, including high permeabilities and high gas resource concentration; however, the table does not include aspects such as government incentives or high-value markets, which could elevate a marginal project to commercial status.
The process of drilling and completing coalbed methane (CBM) wells is similar to wells in conventional reservoirs. Coring, however, can pose special challenges. The first step in creating a drilling program for a CBM well involves gathering information about existing wells in a given area. After these data are gathered and analyzed, a preliminary drilling and completion prognosis can be drafted with the input of field operations personnel. An important aspect in drilling frontier or appraisal wells is to keep the drilling procedures relatively simple.
Unlike conventional reservoirs, coal seams are the source, trap, and reservoir for coalbed methane (CBM). A comparison of the two reservoir types shows profound differences in reservoir properties, storage mechanisms, flow mechanisms, and production profiles. Understanding the reservoir differences is key to successful evaluation and operation of a CBM project. Coal is a chemically complex, combustible solid consisting of a mixture of altered plant remains. Organic matter constitutes more than 50% of coal by weight and more than 70% by volume. Type refers to the variety of organic constituents.
The commercial success of any gas project depends on a number of critical factors including gas production rates, capital requirements, operating costs, gas markets, and economies of scale. In conventional gas projects, gas rates are known from well tests before development, and capital costs for water processing and disposal typically are deferred until later in reservoir life.
This article discusses the geology, depositional setting, and hydrogeology of promising CBM areas, along with a discussion of data sources that can help in evaluation of prospects. Foreland basins are flexural troughs that form in front of rising mountain belts. These basins, which include the Black Warrior and San Juan basins of the U.S., have provided more than 90% of the world's coal gas production to date. Cratonic basins such as the Williston basin, which straddles the U.S./Canadian border, are simple structural depressions that favor the deposition of widespread, continuous coal seams. Intermontane basins, which are common in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern U.S., form within mountain belts and often are structurally complex, resulting in a more heterogeneous coal distribution.