Summary

The low productivity of the oil wells in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS) Trend, located in Louisiana and Mississippi, is a mystery. Production data from 55 wells in the TMS Trend were analyzed to identify possible means of enhancing well productivity. The −1/2 slope in a log–log plot for reservoir linear flow (RLF) was observed for some wells, but not all, and the −1 slope for boundary–dominated flow (BDF) has not been seen in the past 5 years of production. The behavior of the TMS wells is attributed to the ultralow permeability of the TMS matrix and the decline of fracture conductivity, both of which delay the BDF. On the basis of the concept of the distance of investigation, derived from the radius–of–investigation concept, the matrix permeability of the seven TMS wells was estimated to be between 34 and 65 nd, with an average of 51 nd. A new mathematical model for production decline of multifractured horizontal wells was developed taking into consideration the time–dependent fracture conductivity during the BDF period. This model fits TMS–well production data, with an average error of 6.12% and an R2 value of 0.96. Assuming constant matrix permeability, fitting the new model to the production data in the BDF period gives a rate of fracture–conductivity decline of between 0.20 and 0.74% per month. The new mathematical model reveals opportunities to optimize well completion to enhance well productivity in the TMS Trend. For a given amount of fracture proppant allocated to a well, the shortest possible fracture spacing should be used to maximize well productivity. If the number of fractures is fixed as a constraint of well completion design, well productivity is inversely proportional to the square root of fracture spacing (i.e., if the fracture spacing is shortened by fourfold, well productivity is expected to double). If the horizontal wellbore length is fixed as a constraint of well completion, well productivity is inversely proportional to fracture spacing (i.e., if the fracture spacing is shortened by 50%, well productivity is expected to double).

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