The Impact of Extended-Time Proppant Conductivity Impairment on the Ultimate Recovery from Unconventional Horizontal Well Completions

August 5, 2022
The stimulation design of hydraulically fractured wells has always pitted the engineer’s capability to maximize the fracture extent (or fracture half-length within the formation) versus the conductivity of the fracture pack generated by the deposited proppant material. In essence, the area of productive reservoir rock contacted by the hydraulic fracture treatment needs to be appropriately engineered to remain connected to the wellbore over the life of the well to maximize reservoir recovery.The completion design of multi-stage hydraulically fractured horizontal wells has been driven by their application to unconventional oil and gas reservoirs. This has primarily occurred in North America where most of the wells drilled and completed were operated by small, private, or upstream-only independent public companies. Metrics used to evaluate performance and completion design changes were short-term in nature and typically focused on parameters such as peak-month production, 90- or 180-day cumulative production; or at longest, the first year or two of cumulative production. Capital efficiency, and capital return or well payout were drivers of value creation in an environment where the well inventory was viewed as extensive if not unlimited and the quick recycling of invested capital created the illusion of value creation.

Short-term performance metrics give credence to fracture designs that value most the early-time production that is dominated by rate acceleration. The work presented in this paper shows a comparison of fracture designs in deep unconventional formations looking to minimize cost by pumping all sand proppants versus a focus on ultimate recovery from the reservoir with designs that are more applicable to the stress regime. The work shows the importance of maintaining the wellbore connectivity to the reservoir by designing fracture treatments using proppant conductivity decline data measured over an extended-time period of months or years to maximize ultimate recovery from the reservoir. This approach will be critical to those E&P companies who view their well inventory or resource base as finite and consequently place a priority on maximizing recovery from the reservoir.

Paper presented at the SPE International Hydraulic Fracturing Technology Conference & Exhibition, Muscat, Oman, January 2022.
C. Mark Pearson; Garrett Fowler

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