Optimized Shale Resource Development: Proper Placement of Wells and Hydraulic Fracture Stages

Kennedy, Robert L. (Baker Hughes Inc.) | Gupta, Rajdeep (Baker Hughes Ltd.) | Kotov, Sergey Vasilyevich (Baker Hughes Inc.) | Burton, William Aaron (Baker Hughes Inc.) | Knecht, William N. (Energy International Corp.) | Ahmed, Usman (Baker Hughes Inc.)


During the past six years, the technology for shale gas/oil developments in North America has seen many improvements and optimizations as the industry experiences a sharp rise in the contribution of hydrocarbons from these resources. More recently, Europe and Australia have joined the US in expanding recoverable hydrocarbons from these unconventional resources, and initial activities are on the rise in Latin America, China, Saudi Arabia and India. Despite such improvements and optimizations, a closer look at the performance reveals that not all wells are producing commercially. In addition, the hydraulic fracture stages are not all contributing within the producing wells. This scenario potentially suggests that it is important to target the field's sweet spots while dealing with shale resources (like most other hydrocarbon-bearing formations). Hence, resource development based on the current concepts of geometric placement of hydraulic fracture stages (e.g., using fixed well/fracture spacing) may not be appropriate to develop such heterogeneous unconventional resource basins. In the discussion we illustrate certain well-defined criteria that can identify the sweet spot locations within a field/basin for the optimal well placement. We further document the vital formation/zone characteristics that define the locations for hydraulic fracture stages and thus move away from the arbitrary geometric placement.

The paper will discuss the well-placement optimization process and identify the required combination of proposed special petrophysical, geochemical, and geomechanical investigations (wireline, Logging While Drilling and cores). The hydraulic fracture stage placement analysis as presented, shoulders on the need to understand the existing natural fracture system. This understanding is achieved through geophysical log measurements and comprehensive analysis of the hydraulic fracture development pattern, as well as interaction of hydraulic fractures at each stage with the natural fractures. A naturally fractured reservoir can be drained more efficiently if a complex fracture network can be created by the hydraulic fracture stimulation. This begins by drilling the well in the direction of minimum principle horizontal stress in the area.

The paper concludes by presenting examples demonstrating the practical application of some of the specific aspects of the methodology discussed and with a number of specific conclusions. In summary, the three key points to Proper Placement of Wells and Hydraulic Fracture Stages, in order to maximize the net value of an operator's asset are:

1. Begin With a Complete Understanding of the Reservoir
2. Use a Multidiscipline and Integrated Approach Across Each Phase of the Life Cycle
3. Effectively Use Modern Technology

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