Various models featuring horizontal wells with multiple fractures have been proposed to characterize flow behavior over time in tight gas systems and shale-gas systems. Currently, little is known about the effects of nonideal fracture patterns and coupled primary-/secondary-fracture interactions on reservoir performance in unconventional gas reservoirs.

We developed a 3D Voronoi mesh-generation application that provides the flexibility to accurately represent various complex and irregular fracture patterns. We also developed a numerical simulator of gas flow through tight porous media, and used several Voronoi grids to assess the potential performance of such irregular fractures on gas production from unconventional gas reservoirs. Our simulations involved up to a half-million cells, and we considered production periods that are orders of magnitude longer than the expected productive life of wells and reservoirs. Our aim was to describe a wide range of flow regimes that can be observed in irregular fracture patterns, and to fully assess even nuances in flow behavior.

We investigated coupled primary/secondary fractures, with multiple/vertical hydraulic fractures intersecting horizontal secondary "stress-release" fractures. We studied irregular fracture patterns to show the effect of fracture angularity and nonplanar fracture configurations on production. The results indicate that the presence of high-conductivity secondary fractures results in the highest increase in production, whereas, contrary to expectations, strictly planar and orthogonal fractures yield better production performance than nonplanar and nonorthogonal fractures with equivalent propped-fracture lengths.

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