Irrational Fracturing -- How Heuristics and Biases Affect Judgments in Fracpacking
- V. Mahadev Ammachathram (CSI Technologies)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Hydraulic Fracturing Technology Conference, 19-21 January, The Woodlands, Texas
- Publication Date
- Document Type
- Conference Paper
- 2009. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 1.12.2 Logging While Drilling, 3.2.3 Hydraulic Fracturing Design, Implementation and Optimisation, 1.8 Formation Damage, 2.4.5 Gravel pack design & evaluation, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 5.6.1 Open hole/cased hole log analysis, 7.2.3 Decision-making Processes, 1.2.3 Rock properties, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 2.5.2 Fracturing Materials (Fluids, Proppant), 3 Production and Well Operations, 2.2.2 Perforating, 2.4.3 Sand/Solids Control, 2.5.1 Fracture design and containment
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Fracpacking has evolved as the single, most preferred sand control completion technique in the world today. This dramatic increase in the number of fracpacks is reflected in increasing number of technology vessels, skid pumping equipment, remote data transmission capabilities and increasing numbers of personnel. The technical jargon of fracturing has become more and more common place as operating and service companies constantly try to break new barriers in the scope of fracturing and fracpacking.
Most operators and service companies have dedicated fracturing personnel, who have tremendous levels of expertise and experience in fracpacking. Unfortunately, when an application is embraced globally at such a fast paced level, personnel tend to rely subconsciously on what is called "heuristics?? or "rules of thumb?? that enable them to make key decisions on how to execute a fracturing treatment. The use of heuristics leads to systematic errors called "biases?? that can affect the decision process as a whole; thereby affecting the entire treatment.
This paper examines the key heuristics that fracturing engineers employ. The goal of this paper is to minimize the probability of errors in judgment that are commonly made by exposing the underlying biases. For example, Anchoring and Adjustment is a common bias encountered in re-designing fracpack treatments everyday. If a group of engineers are involved in the re-design process, the first engineer that comes up with a pad volume has anchored his base volume in all the other participant's minds. The adjustments are then made based on the initial anchor and a desire to conform to the group's opinion (consensus bias). The net effect is that other possible values or solutions are either neglected or ignored. The Availability heuristic bases judgment on what is available in most recent or vivid memory. Engineers remember recently executed and problem jobs, and base their judgments on what they can instantly recall from these experiences. This paper combines the psychological impact in fracturing treatments and ways to harness these biases in a positive manner for a successful treatment.
Decision making pervades every activity that humans perform in their personal and professional lives. The general steps involved in the decision making process are as follows:
- Define the problem
- Identify the criteria
- Weigh the criteria
- Generate Alternatives
- Rate each alternative on each criterion
- Compute the optimal decision
The above formal steps assume that humans are rational beings that choose a decision based on the highest value they perceive. In a fracturing context, several key decisions are made based on the response of the formation to various tests it is exposed to. This paper provides analysis of the most common heuristics that come into play in a fracpacking operation. The intent is to make engineers aware of the issues and to utilize heuristics to their best possible advantage. Sample case histories are provided that will help engineers identify and overcome biases as they occur.
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