Technical Paper: Natural Fractures in the Unconventional Shale Reservoirs in US and Their Roles in Well Completion Design and Improving Hydraulic Fracturing Stimulation Efficiency

Society: SPE
Paper Number: 170934
Presentation Date: 2014
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Most of the shale reservoirs in US land are naturally fractured. The fracture intensity and types vary from one shale to another. Even within the same shale in the same field, the heterogeneity of fracture intensity can be often expected to be high in a horizontal well. The current popular geometrical completion design can potentially ignore the existence of natural fractures. Hence, maximizing stimulation efficiency without understanding existing natural fractures can be a challenge. In this paper, study was made of the majority of the published case studies related to natural fractures in the US shales in the last 20 years. The evidence of natural fractures from either outcrops or subsurface data, i.e. core, borehole images, or other data is summarized for each studied shale. The latest studies show that the hydraulic fracture propagation can be strongly influenced by existing natural fractures regardless of whether they are open or closed. The roles of existing fractures in the shale include:

1) providing enhanced reservoir permeability for improved productivity if they are open and effectively connected by hydraulic fractures

2) promoting much better fracturing network complexity regardless of whether they are open or closed prior to the stimulation

3) giving possible negative impact sometimes, i.e. high water cut, if they are connected with wet zones below or above the reservoirs.

It can be concluded that engineered completion designs that employ accurate knowledge of natural fracture data, in-situ stresses, and other reservoir and completion quality indicators as inputs can provide opportunities for enhancing stimulation efficiency and fracturing network complexity. This in turn can lead to better connectivity to a larger reservoir volume and access to more drainage area in the shales.

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