Due to low natural gas prices, low production rates, and increased development costs, many operators have shifted operations from shale gas to liquid-rich shale plays. One means to make shale gas plays more attractive is to enhance well production through stimulation optimization. In numerous previous works, the authors have highlighted the geomechanical causes and important parameters for hydraulic fracture optimization in naturally fractured shale plays. The authors have, for example, emphasized the impact that stress shadows, from multiple hydraulic fractures, has on increasing the resistance of natural fractures and weakness planes to shear stimulation. The authors have also shown the critical role that in-situ pressure and pressure changes have on natural fracture shear stimulation. In this paper, we present the results of a discrete element model numerical study of both hydraulic fracture spacing and hydraulic fracture timing in a fully hydro-mechanical coupled fashion. The pressure changes in the natural fracture system of an unconventional play, due to hydraulic fracturing, often follow a diffusion-type process, which means the pressure changes are time dependent. As shown in previous works of the authors and others, the time-dependent changes in the in-situ pressure can have a marked impact on shear stimulation. The study performed quantitatively looked at the impact of hydraulic fracture spacing as a function of in-situ pressure change and time for key parameters such as the in-situ stress ratio, natural fracture characteristics, and natural fracture mechanical properties. The results of the study help improve the understanding of in-situ pressure and hydraulic fracture timing on stimulation optimization and enhanced hydrocarbon production. The study also provides a means to optimize hydraulic fracture spacing and increase shear stimulation for unconventional wells.

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