Considering the important role that perforation laboratory testing can play in establishing field completion strategies, and thus ultimately well performance, efforts are currently underway to further strengthen the link between laboratory results and field well performance predictions. Some of these efforts focus on integrating advanced diagnostic and computational tools (namely computed tomography (CT), and pore-scale flow simulation) into the perforation testing workflow. This integration enables local variations in permeability and porosity to be identified and quantified, thus improving the interpretation of perforation laboratory results, and ultimately the translation of these results to the downhole environment.
CT techniques have been used for core analysis, characterization, and flow visualization since the early 1980s. By the early 1990s, these techniques were being applied to the investigation of laboratory-perforated cores to enhance the interpretation of tests conducted following API RP19B Section 2 or 4. This application has increased dramatically since 2012, following the installation of a CT scanning system on-site at a perforating laboratory facility. As a result, this non-destructive technique has become a preferred method to routinely characterize perforation tunnels and the surrounding rock, as well as to enable the repeated inspection of a perforated core at multiple steps throughout a test sequence designed to mimic field operations scenarios. Coinciding with this development has been the advancement and application of micro-CT technology to better understand pore-scale phenomena, both near and away from the perforation.
This paper introduces an integrated test program currently underway and summarizes key results from two experiments in which stressed rock targets were perforated under significantly different conditions. The first experiment involved perforating a moderate strength sandstone core under conditions that retained substantially all perforation damage, thus preserving the "crushed zone". Micro-CT analysis of different locations within the crushed zone region revealed significant compaction, with porosity reductions ranging from 10 to 50% below that of the native rock. Permeability at one of these selected locations was determined and found to be reduced by approximately 35% below the native rock value. The second experiment involved perforating a very high-strength sandstone core under conditions intended to produce full cleanup. CT and micro-CT analysis revealed fine fractures near the tunnel tip and confirmed the near-complete removal of the perforation damage, with only a very thin (less than 1 mm) compacted zone remaining at the tunnel wall. Although this region is interpreted to have very low permeability (as indicated by the near-zero connected porosity detectable at the resolution investigated), a fracture network combined with the shell’s minimal thickness suggests that this would provide a minimal impediment to inflow.
Ongoing work aims to expand these findings and capabilities. A main effort going forward centers on simulating core-scale perforation inflow, incorporating the localized rock property variations determined as described in this paper. Additional property variations away from the perforation (for example, natural heterogeneity and/or anisotropy that often exist in reservoir wellcore samples) will also be taken into account. Such localized variations, both near and away from the perforation, are generally not taken into account in typical Section 4 test programs. Consequently, this ongoing effort will ultimately strengthen the relevance of Section 4 results to the downhole environment.