Three Unconventional Startups Offer New Clues on Shale’s Biggest Well Spacing Mysteries
- Trent Jacobs (JPT Digital Editor)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- September 2018
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 47 - 52
- 2018. Copyright is held partially by SPE. Contact SPE for permission to use material from this document.
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It can be fairly argued that the most important question being asked today by shale producers is: How close can horizontal wells be placed together? The right answer is worth billions of dollars to the sector.
Among the unsolved mysteries with well spacing are how and why hydraulic fractures from neighboring wells interact with each other. These events, described as frac hits, can be beneficial to oil production (as has been documented in the Bakken Shale) but the more pressing concern is focused on the cases where they harm production (often the case in the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale).
Petroleum engineers know that production-depleted zones within their reservoirs play a big role, but predicting the effects this has on their well designs will require completely new diagnostic approaches.
To solve this grand challenge, an increasing number of industry startups have put their technologies, ones originally developed with a different purpose in mind, under the microscope. The clues they have discovered so far could reshape how the industry understands highly complex shale plays—where profits and losses can be decided by landing a well 100 ft in one direction or the other.
These young companies are among those coming up with some of the most compelling pieces to the puzzle. Fracture ID invented a measurement-while-drilling tool that can detect depleted reservoir sections; Reveal Energy Services has a monitoring system that may be able to diagnose interwell fracture activity; and ResFrac Corp. is using its new modeling software to help operators better estimate permeability, which ties right into well spacing and fracture cluster design.
Can You Measure Depletion While Drilling?
Founded in 2014, Fracture ID offers a new service called “drill bit geomechanics” that could become an early warning system for frac hits caused by pressure and hydrocarbon depletion from older producing wells.
The wellbore-focused service has been used by more than three dozen operators to improve on several different aspects of completion efficiency, including helping to make sure proppant effectively moves into perforations.
While a lot of its work is focused on what is happening around the wellbore, over the course of its 350-well track record the company has determined, “what we’re measuring in the near-field has some extension out into the farfield,” said Chris Neale, the chief executive officer and founder of Fracture ID.
He explained that the downhole data the firm gathers during drilling show correlations to the pressures that operators monitor during and after stimulating a fracture stage. This relationship is seen as one key to predicting which stages will most likely lead to fracture interference.
At the core of Fracture ID’s service is a foot-long accelerometer device that sits behind a drill bit and enables the Denver-based firm to translate drilling vibrations into critical rock descriptions, including stress and strain, two performance-driving factors for completions.
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