Low matrix permeability and significant damage mechanisms are the main signatures of tight gas reservoirs. During drilling and fracturing of tight formations, the wellbore liquid invades the tight formation, increases liquid saturation around wellbore and eventually reduces permeability at near wellbore. The liquid invasion damage is mainly controlled by capillary pressure and relative permeability curves.
Water blocking and phase trapping damage is one of the main concerns in use of water based drilling fluid in tight gas reservoirs, since due to high critical water saturation, relative permeability effects and strong capillary pressure, tight formations are sensitive to water invasion damage. Therefore, use of oil based mud may be preferred in drilling or fracturing of tight formation. However invasion of oil filtrate into tight formations may result in introduction of an immiscible liquid hydrocarbon drilling or completion fluid around wellbore, causing entrapment of an additional third phase in the porous media that would exacerbate formation damage effects.
This study focuses on phase trapping damage caused by liquid invasion using water-based drilling fluid in comparison with use of oil-based drilling fluid in water sensitive tight gas sand reservoirs. Reservoir simulation approach is used to study the effect of relative permeability curves on phase trap damage, and results of laboratory experiments core flooding tests in a West Australian tight gas reservoir are shown in which the effect of water injection and oil injection on the damage of core permeability are studied. The results highlights benefits of using oil-based fluids in drilling and fracturing of tight gas reservoirs in term of reducing skin factor and improving well productivity.
Tight gas reservoirs normally have production problems due to very low matrix permeability and different damage mechanisms during well drilling, completion, stimulation and production (Dusseault, 1993). The low permeability gas reservoirs can be subject to different damage mechanisms such as mechanical damage to formation rock, plugging of natural fractures by invasion of mud solid particles, permeability reduction around wellbore as a result of filtrate invasion, clay swelling, liquid phase trapping, etc (Holditch, 1979).
In general, for tight sand gas reservoirs, average pore throat radius might be very small and therefore it may create tremendous amounts of capillary forces. Capillary forces cause the spontaneous imbibition of a wetting liquid (in this case water) in the porous medium in the absence of external forces such as a hydraulic gradient (Bennion and Brent, 2005). This causes significantly high critical water saturation (Bennion et al., 2006). Two forces drive capillary flow (Adamson and Gast, 1997). The first is the reduction in the surface free energy by the wetting of the hydrophilic surface (wettability). In hydraulic fracturing, water in the fracturing fluid wets the surface of the pores in the rock, resulting in a decrease in the surface free energy of the pores. The other force that drives capillary flow is the capillary pressure.
Tight gas reservoirs might be different in term of initial water saturation (Swi) compared with critical water saturation (Swc), depending on the geological time of gas migration to the reservoir. Initial water saturation might be normal, or in some cases sub-normal (Swi less than Swc) due to water phase vaporization into the gas phase (Bennion and Thomas, 1996). The initial water saturation might also be more than Swc if the hydrocarbon trap is created during or after the gas migration time. A sub-normal initial water saturation in tight gas reservoirs can provide higher relative permeability for the gas phase (effective permeability close to absolute permeability), and therefore relatively higher well productivity (Bennion and Brent, 2005).