Poststimulation operations on multistage hydraulically stimulated horizontal wells producing from conventional and unconventional reservoirs have a major impact on long-term well performance. Most common types of poststimulation services on such wells include plug drillout (PDO) operations and well flowback (WFB) operations. During these operations, the hydraulic fracture system experiences major changes in pressure and flowrate, which may affect the well's long-term productivity. Among the many mechanisms responsible for decrease in well productivity, we highlight 1) the risk of losing the connection between the wellbore and hydraulic fracture system because of the development of an unpropped area; 2) rock destabilization, and 3) the risk of scaling and precipitation.
In this paper, we describe an integrated engineering and operations workflow for optimizing poststimulation operations on horizontal wells by controlling the productive fracture system evolution during the poststimulation period. The approach is based on applying the secure operating envelope (SOE) concept, which provides a set of operating parameters that ensure preservation of the connection between the hydraulic fractures and wellbore. The SOE is defined for each individual well, using a combination of geomechanical and multiphase transport modeling. It accounts for reservoir properties, well completion, and fracture treatment parameters. High-resolution, real-time monitoring of well performance and active control of bottomhole conditions through choke management ensure the well is operated within the SOE. The production objectives combined with the evolution of the SOE enable an overall strategy for poststimulation operations.
The paper outlines how the SOE is constructed. Applications of the proposed approach on horizontal oil and gas wells in unconventional reservoirs in North America are reported, both during well flowback and plug drillout operations. Using the SOE during well flowback helps to predict and avoid a decrease in well production performance caused by excessive proppant flowback which results in creation of near-wellbore pinch points inside hydraulic fractures. Additionally, plug drillout was identified as a critical operation, during which the proppant pack can be destabilized. The associated risk was strongly reduced by applying the SOE concept in combination with high-resolution monitoring.
Based on data obtained from more than 50 operated wells, we conclude that the proposed methodology, including application of geomechanical modeling to poststimulation operations, brings significant opportunities for optimization of well performance and securing long-term well productivity.