Unconventional-Asset-Development Work Flow in the Eagle Ford Shale

Carpenter, Chris (JPT Technology Editor)


This article, written by JPT Technology Editor Chris Carpenter, contains highlights of paper SPE 168973, "Unconventional-Asset-Development Work Flow in the Eagle Ford Shale," by David Cook, Kirsty Downing, Sebastian Bayer, Hunter Watkins, Vanon Sun Chee Fore, Marcus Stansberry, Saurabh Saksena, and Doug Peck, BHP Billiton Petroleum, prepared for the 2014 SPE Unconventional Resources Conference - USA, The Woodlands, Texas, USA, 1-3 April. The paper has not been peer reviewed.

Development of the Eagle Ford shale typically consists of horizontal wells stimulated with multiple hydraulic-fracture stages. This paper presents a pragmatic integrated work flow used to optimize development and guide critical development decisions in the Black Hawk field. Geoscientists and reservoir and completion engineers worked collaboratively to identify optimal completion designs and well spacings for development focus areas. Multiple simplistic simulation models were history matched to existing production wells.


In 2008, the operator drilled several successful wells in the Hawkville field of what would become the Eagle Ford shale play. Early results led to substantial land acquisition. The Eagle Ford, while continuous over wide sections, varies substantially in terms of fluid and rock properties. Fig. 1 shows a cross section for an arbitrary line through Black Hawk and Hawkville to the Maverick basin, showing the relative changes in thickness and Young’s modulus.

An understanding of the characterization of shale systems for simulation has evolved rapidly. Flow contributions from natural fractures, induced fractures, and matrix rock along with the nature of the hydrocarbon deposit itself should be considered. Perhaps even more important is regional variation. In the world of conventional assets, property estimation needs to be reliable only for a small geographical area, often within one sandstone structure of a few square miles at most. This can be compared with the scale of the play in Fig. 1. For conventional reservoirs, standardized laboratory methods and years of research and trial and error have educated our approaches to well-defined best practices. In shale plays, these have not yet been fully worked through and adopted by consensus, often leaving the owner of the asset as the arbiter of methodology.