Shale has been usually recognized as a transverse isotropic (TI) medium in conventional geomechanical log interpretation due to its laminated nature. However, when natural fractures (NFs) exist in the rock body, additional elastic anisotropy can be introduced, converting laminated Shale to an orthorhombic (OB) medium. Previous studies illustrate that treating the naturally fractured shale rock as a TI medium by ignoring the NF-induced anisotropy can cause the erroneous estimation of the geomechanical properties and in-situ stress. In this paper, the study is extended to quantify the impact of NF-induced elastic anisotropy on completion and fracturing designs in different actual shale reservoirs in U.S.
Published acoustic log data from five different shale formations (Bakken, Marcellus, Haynesville, Eagle Ford, and Niobrara) are collected and examined to determine their availability to generate the stiffness tensor of the representative TI background rock of each Shale reservoir. Natural fractures with different intensity values from 0 to 10 per foot, with shear wave splitting ranging from 0-5%, are introduced in the TI background rock to create the corresponding OB rock stiffness tensor. The OB stiffness tensors of different shale cases are finally converted back to the compressional and shear acoustic signals, which can be interpreted based on the TI or OB assumptions. The final output elastic moduli and in-situ stress results interpreted from different assumptions are compared, and the impact of NF-induced elastic anisotropy on completion and fracturing designs is quantified and fully understood for different shales.
The results show that introducing natural fractures into the TI background shale rock leads to a decrease of the in-situ stress and Young's modulus at the orientation perpendicular to the natural fracture plane. Such impact increases with increasing split of fast and slow shear wave slowness (SWS), while decreases with increasing ratio of the “soft mineral content” (i.e. clay and TOC) to the “hard mineral content” (i.e. quartz and calcite). In addition to that, different impacts on stress contrast (variation along the vertical depth) are observed for different shales, owing to the complex mineralogy/lithology sequences of different shale formations. As a result, ignoring the natural fracture induced elastic anisotropy in acoustic log interpretation can result in an overestimation of in-situ stress and Young's modulus as well as a misinterpretation of stress contrast, which further leads to the problematic or suboptimal completion/fracturing designs. The results have been also compared with the shale mineralogy/lithology log data to reveal how the natural fracture induced elastic anisotropy impact is associated with the natural fracture properties (compliance and intensity) and the mineralogy of TI background rocks.
The current study not only illustrates the importance of taking natural fracture induced anisotropy into account when performing geomechanical log interpretation, but also provides guidance to the operators of the five shale fields to better evaluate their current completion/fracturing design strategies and to determine if the natural fracture induced anisotropy impact should be corrected for their current designs or not based on the monitored splitting of fast and slow shear wave slowness.