In the Midland Basin of west Texas, produced water volumes have historically been disposed into shallow intervals (i.e., Grayburg-San Andres). Over the last decade, the rapid growth in unconventional resource development has resulted in a significant increase in the volume of produced water leading to pressure gradient differences between shallow disposal zones and deeper intervals. These conditions have created drilling challenges and have prompted operators to test additional zones suitable for produced water disposal. In recent years, the Early Ordovician Ellenburger (ELBG) reservoir has become an alternative disposal interval to shallower reservoirs.
The Ellenburger Group of west Texas, a prolific producing reservoir, is part of an extensive carbonate system best known for karst development associated with prolonged subaerial exposure and intervals of high secondary porosity in fracture breccias generated by subsequent cave collapse. Many authors have described fracture occurrence and karst-related breccias of the ELBG, both of which impact productivity at the reservoir scale within the fields and make regional correlations particularly challenging. Ellenburger depositional facies have been described by previous workers in equivalent units across west and central Texas, and textural analysis of high-resolution electrical borehole images from recently drilled disposal wells, combined with core observations, shows corresponding porous intervals to be present in the Midland Basin.
This paper describes the generation of a regional model of porosity distribution within the Ellenburger and assesses the important differences in depositional environment and diagenetic history that exist among the internal units of the ELBG that may impact salt water disposal (SWD) well performance. For example, the Upper ELBG is dominated by fracture porosity in breccia fabrics associated with collapsed cave systems, while the Lower ELBG exhibits preserved porosity associated with original depositional textures. The regional model was tested using multiple datasets: image logs, core descriptions, electric logs from more than 400 well penetrations, and injection data from recent well tests. The integration of these datasets has resulted in a suite of maps of the key stratigraphic intervals within the ELBG that offer the greatest potential for disposal. Additionally, the integration of well performance with observed regional geologic trends was used to identify and tier key performance drivers for deep SWD injection performance, resulting in refined performance maps that can be used for strategic placement of deep SWD wells.
Wilson, Tawnya (Pioneer Natural Resources) | Handke, Michael (Pioneer Natural Resources) | Loughry, Donny (Pioneer Natural Resources) | Waite, Lowell (Pioneer Natural Resources) | Lowe, Brandon (Pioneer Natural Resources)
Over the last decade, the growth of unconventional resource development in the Midland Basin has significantly increased the disposal of produced water volumes. Disposal into the historic Grayburg-San Andres (GYBG-SNDR) reservoir has resulted in a dynamically changing pore pressure environment relative to deeper producing formations which is important to consider when planning drilling operations throughout the basin. A deep understanding of the GYBG-SNDR geology is imperative for reservoir management to ensure that produced water disposal does not hinder oil and gas production operations. This study describes the geologic controls on porosity and permeability distributions in GYBG-SNDR across the Midland Basin by utilizing core, modern well log suites, 3D seismic data, and saltwater disposal (SWD) well data.
In 2017, Pioneer acquired more than 1,000 feet of core in three wells over the GYBG-SNDR injection interval which were used to describe the depositional and diagenetic facies and calibrate a petrophysical model for a basin-wide well log dataset. The resultant log curves were used to construct maps describing the abundance and regional distribution of each lithology, which validated and further refined the depositional model. Observations resulting from the integration of the lithology maps, 3D seismic data, well log correlations and core were used to divide the basin into three distinct areas based upon the dominant lithologies and stratigraphic architecture. The three areas are separated by two major shelf margins representing a significant sea level drop at that time. These basin-wide trends provide a regional geologic framework in which to analyze SWD well performance.
Numerous geologic maps were created and tested against quality-checked and normalized SWD well performance data. Despite some scatter in the data (due to the differences in how the wells are operated, completed, and maintained) a positive linear correlation was found between SWD well performance and permeable dolomite footage. Additionally, anhydrite is most abundant in the northeastern part of the basin and is qualitatively associated with a decrease in permeable dolomite thickness, and therefore performance. Mapped matrix permeability is enhanced by fracture permeability related to syndepositional margin collapse and reactivation of older faults during the Laramide Orogeny. These features are documented throughout the Midland Basin using proprietary 3D seismic datasets and have been shown to be conduits for fluid flow resulting in dissolution and further dolomitization in some areas.
Knowledge and understanding of the regional distribution of pore pressure are key to developing a successful unconventional resource play. While there are methods for mapping pressure using pad initial shut-in pressure (ISIP), diagnostic fracture injection test (DFIT), and electric submersible pump (ESP) pressure measurements (Loughry et al., 2015), in the absence of these data other methods are required. Drill stem test (DST) pressures are often available, but conventional DST tools are incapable of recording pressure within an unconventional shale target zone. In basins with laterally continuous conventional reservoirs, drill stem test pressures from these intervals can be used to calibrate the pore pressure estimations from petrophysical methods, such as pore pressures calculated from sonic logs using the Eaton equation.
The Eaton equation compares the actual sonic transit time of a shale to the sonic transit time of a baseline shale compaction trend to measure the degree of undercompaction due to overpressure. The additional challenge of applying such a method on a regional scale is using the correct compaction trend. In a basin which has undergone uplift, sonic logs will appear overcompacted in the uplifted intervals. If there are multiple episodes of uplift, then each uplifted interval will follow a different compaction trend.
It is therefore critical to use an appropriate compaction curve for the uplift history of both the region and the interval of investigation to avoid overlooking potential overpressured zones. Drill stem tests help to constrain the compaction curves by identifying normally pressured intervals which therefore will fall on the baseline compaction trend.
The methods described herein for utilizing DST and sonic log datasets to calibrate a regional pore pressure model were applied in the Delaware basin of west Texas. The data set shows an overpressure cell which coincides with the stratigraphic onset of the best source rock intervals. It reaches its highest values in the deeper eastern side of the basin where there has also been the least amount of uplift. The highly overpressured eastern region coincides with higher rates of hydrocarbon production. In contrast, normal pressure gradients surround the basin margins where production rates are reduced.