With globally increasing demand for hydrocarbons, finding and developing unconventional resources has become a global necessity. Outside North America, shale gas discoveries have been made in recent years; however, significant commercial production has been limited to North America. Finding and developing unconventional resources outside North America is the next big challenge for the oil and gas industry.
Although the reported potential of unconventional gas resource volumes in MENA are almost similar in size to US, presently the exploration and development of such resources has been very limited. Unconventional reservoirs have very different and distinct requirements from conventional reservoirs. The more ‘unconventional’ targeted a resource is, the more difficult it is to develop. Furthermore, for these difficult resources, highly specialized technologies need to be applied by considering their unique requirements.
Key challenges specific to the MENA region include the following:
- Limited exposure to unconventional sources leads to lack of infrastructure, high cost,
- Reservoir characteristics (rock and fluid properties) and geo-mechanics,
- Implementation of directional and horizontal drilling technologies suited for the region,
- Most challenging aspect is hydraulic fracturing (fluid availability and management, fracturing fluid and proppant selection, fracturing design, equipment) as it incurs highest cost and exhausts maximum technological efforts.
This paper aims to highlight these associated challenges in developing unconventional resources and offers a potential approach to evaluate unconventional resources. Additionally, public data are reviewed and emerged technologies are used to unlock the potential of unconventional resources in MENA.
A major service company has exhaustive and varied data from different geographies, resources type captured in its State-of-The-Art data center. A comparative case study is included which extrapolates historically available data specific to directional drilling, frac treatment designing & analysis and fluid management to MENA conditions to depict and overcome the challenges of unconventional resources.