A well was drilled into a prospective new unconventional mudstone play offshore Norway. Two of five coring runs were successful while the rest yielded little to no core recovery. Investigations attributed the poor recovery to sub-optimal coring practices, equipment failure and operational errors. Recently, the accompanying petrophysical logs and seismic data were revisited, and upon detailed investigation several unusual responses were observed to correspond with intervals of poor core recovery. Subsequent investigation of the core itself substantiated that the coring issues largely had natural causes. This understanding is being applied to two imminent coring operations and has driven selection of drilling, coring and wireline technology and procedures, in addition to informing casing design.
Wireline nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and cross dipole acoustic data, logging whilst drilling (LWD) density (including azimuthal images), neutron porosity and resistivity was acquired over the interval of interest for standard formation evaluation purposes. This interpretation was conducted immediately after the initial drilling and showed the formation to be a series of highly porous oil bearing mudstones. However, no in depth advanced interpretation was conducted at the time. Recently, advanced analysis including high resolution log enhancement, NMR 2D porosity and saturation analysis, acoustic azimuthal anisotropy, near wellbore imaging, fracture interpretation, and borehole image interpretation were performed on the log data, and new and improved 3D seismic data was interpreted. When interpreted in detail it could be observed that unusual responses in the logs showed a close correspondence to the intervals of poor core recovery. In particular, high azimuthal anisotropy was observed, and when this was compared to the near wellbore reflection image a significant planar reflecting feature was identified which is determined to be a fault. Indications of this feature was subsequently found in seismic data. When then compared to the azimuthal density image after resolution enhancement was applied, although the image is still of too low resolution to directly image the fault, disturbed bedding was observed which is commonly associated with faulted intervals. Several core fragments proved to have extensive small-scale fracturing not noticed previously, and slickenlines were found along several larger fractures previously presumed to be drilling induced.
The investigations of the log data revealed that a previously unknown sub-seismic fault was present right below the depth where coring problems were encountered. The detailed interpretation was able to determine the precise location of the fault and its extent in the formation. Knowledge of this subsequently explained the coring problems encountered and helps to optimise imminent coring in the same formation. Lessons learned and the methodology likely also applies to similar formations.
In this paper we discuss coring issues encountered in a new and unconventional play offshore, present new data and interpretation that sheds light on them and describe the methodology of the detailed integrated interpretation that uncovered the previously unknown root cause. We then discuss how these findings can be (and are) used to optimise both drilling, coring, and logging operations in future wells.
One role of the petrophysicist is to characterize the fluids encountered in the reservoir. Detection of a change in fluid type in the rocks while drilling is usually straightforward with the use of gas and chromatographic measurements. In the rare case of gas-bearing, high-permeability rock drilled with high overbalance, gas will be flushed from the rock ahead of the bit, will not be circulated to the surface in the mud, and will not produce a gas show. Because hydrocarbons are not always part of a water-based-mud formulation, sophisticated analytical chemical techniques can be used on the oil and gas samples circulated to the surface and captured to determine the properties of hydrocarbons in a given zone penetrated by the drill bit. Occasionally, small amounts of hydrocarbons are added to water-based mud to reduce friction on the drillpipe.
The imaging deficiencies of 2D seismic profiling were remedied by the implementation of 3D seismic data acquisition, which allows data processing to migrate reflections to their correct image coordinates in 3D space. Industry largely abandoned 2D seismic profiling in the 1990s and now relies almost entirely on 3D seismic data acquisition. This article talks about some of the basic concepts that it is important to understand to properly design a 3D seismic survey. Understanding these design issues will help with interpretation as well. The horizontal resolution a 3D seismic image provides is a function of the trace spacing within the 3D data volume.
In some reservoir applications, seismic data are acquired with downhole sources and receivers. If the receiver is stationed at various depth levels in a well and the source remains on the surface, the measurement is called vertical seismic profiling (VSP). This technique produces a high-resolution, 2D image that begins at the receiver well and extends a short distance (a few tens of meters or a few hundred meters, depending on the source offset distance) toward the source station. This image, a 2D profile restricted to the vertical plane passing through the source and receiver coordinates, is useful in tying seismic responses to subsurface geologic and engineering control. If the source is deployed at various depth levels in one well and the receiver is placed at several depth stations in a second well, the measurement is called crosswell seismic profiling (CSP). Images made from CSP data have the best spatial resolution of any seismic measurement used in reservoir characterization because a wide range of frequencies is recorded.
In most exploration and reservoir seismic surveys, the main objectives are, first, to correctly image the structure in time and depth and, second, to correctly characterize the amplitudes of the reflections. Assuming that the amplitudes are accurately rendered, a host of additional features can be derived and used in interpretation. Collectively, these features are referred to as seismic attributes. The simplest attribute, and the one most widely used, is seismic amplitude, and it is usually reported as the maximum (positive or negative) amplitude value at each sample along a horizon picked from a 3D volume. It is fortunate that, in many cases, the amplitude of reflection corresponds directly to the porosity or to the saturation of the underlying formation.
Locating fractures, recognizing fracture morphology, and identifying fluid-flow properties in the fracture system are important criteria in characterizing reservoirs that produce predominantly from fracture systems. Acoustic techniques can provide insight. Fracture identification and evaluation using conventional resistivity and compressional-wave acoustic logs is difficult, in part because fracture recognition is very dependent on the dip angle of fractures with respect to the borehole. Fractures are physical discontinuities that generate acoustic reflection, refraction, and mode conversion--all of which contribute to a loss of transmitted acoustic energy. In particular, compressional- and shear-wave amplitude and attenuation and Stoneley-wave attenuation are significantly affected by the presence of fractures.
A variety of seismic sources exist that can apply vertical impulse forces to the surface of the ground. These devices are viable energy sources for onshore seismic work. Included in this source category are gravity-driven weight droppers and other devices that use explosive gases or compressed air to drive a heavy pad vertically downward. Multiple references describe these types of sources. Chemical-explosive energy sources are popular for onshore seismic surveys but are prohibited at some sites because of environmental conditions, cultural restrictions, or federal and state regulations. Chemical explosives are no longer used as marine energy sources for environmental and ecological reasons. Field tests should always be made before an extensive seismic program is implemented. First, it should be determined whether the selected impulsive source creates adequate energy input to provide data with an appropriate signal-to-noise ratio and a satisfactory signal bandwidth at appropriate offset distances. Second, it is important to determine whether an impulsive source causes unwanted reverberations in shallow strata. Vibroseis energy sources are some of the more popular seismic source options for onshore hydrocarbon exploration.
The full elastic seismic wavefield that propagates through an isotropic Earth consists of a P-wave component and two shear (SV and SH) wave components. Marine air guns and vertical onshore sources produce reflected wavefields that are dominated by P and SV modes. Much of the SV energy in these wavefields is created by P-to-SV-mode conversions when the downgoing P wavefield arrives at stratal interfaces at nonnormal angles of incidence (Figure 1). Horizontal-dipole sources can create strong SH modes in onshore programs. No effective seismic horizontal-dipole sources exist for marine applications.
In some instances, the uncertainty can be significant, and additional information is needed to optimize production and improve estimates of ultimate recovery. In many cases, the effect of the changing reservoir pressure and/or saturation on seismic data can be used to map the changing pattern of these reservoir properties by obtaining seismic data repeatedly during production of the reservoir. With care, seismic data obtained for other purposes (such as regional exploration) can sometimes be used for time-lapse seismic monitoring, but new data are often obtained from seismic experiments designed particularly to monitor the reservoir. The desire to minimize differences in acquisition parameters between surveys has led, in some cases, to permanent installation of sensors in the oilfield. Because most sensors deployed in this manner are deeply buried and/or cemented, this also has the effect of removing many of the sources of random seismic noise.