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Finding & Exploiting new petroleum resources in Europe

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Video Presentation

Adapting US fracturing technology to UK shale exploration

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Tim Harper
Geosphere Ltd

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Talk Description

Applying US hydraulic fracturing technology to UK shale exploration wells demands and encourages adaptations for both social and technical reasons. Exploration wells must not only test and hopefully demonstrate commercial potential but also provide reassurance to an uninformed and often misinformed public. In the UK, we have a far more concentrated population, usually better quality agricultural land and a greater challenge to gain the necessary social licence. In the eyes of many, including many politicians who have banned its use or plan to do so, hydrofracturing is viewed more as a bête noire, or worse, than a basic component of the petroleum engineer’s toolkit. Risk, real and perceived, and public inconvenience must be minimised. The present US technology is inefficient in that a minority of fracture stages produce the majority of a well’s production. Unproductive stages and unproductive fractures within clusters are not simply expensive and a source of unnecessary vehicle movements but may be actually detrimental to a well’s productivity. Empiricism has often masqueraded as design. Much greater quantities of materials are wasted than if the situation were reversed and the majority of fracture stages contributed to the flow. Reducing cost, minimising public inconvenience, gaining social acceptance and increasing well productivity go hand in hand.

The results of a stimulated exploration well must be extrapolated or interpolated to other areas of a licence. To maximise the value of an exploration well the results should contribute to, and accelerate, the exploration learning curve. Hydraulic fracturing is a fundamentally a mechanical process. At least two basic geomechanical requirements must be satisfied if the exploration of a licence is to be optimised. First, some understanding must be gained of the processes controlling the effectiveness of multistage fracturing at each well; second a licence-wide model of the distribution of stress and the relevant mechanical properties must be constructed and progressively refined. This implies a programme of data collection, balancing cost against immediate and future benefit.

In relation to well completion needs, this talk will concentrate on reservoir stress state with brief attention to reservoir rock properties. How and why each aspect of stress state affects well and completion planning will be discussed. The focus will be on less widely recognised but basic reservoir geomechanical realities, their constraints on fracturing operations and the justification for constructing licence-wide and local geomechanical reservoir models. A brief review of the basic data sources for building a geomechanical model of a licence prior to drilling and during an exploration programme in the UK, will be included, and what can be achieved for little cost.

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