The recent slump in oil prices has resulted in new terminology: “drilled uncompleted wells,” often referred to as DUC wells by the industry. In 2013 and 2014, when oil prices were more than USD 100/bbl, rate of return (ROR) from most unconventional plays was in the range of 15 to 50%, depending on the quality of rock and the operator's portfolio in the basin. The objective of this paper is to address key challenges associated with DUC completions when they are eventually fractured and brought on line for production. The paper addresses four main concerns that can have significant impacts on productivity of DUC wells: fracture hits (well interference), reservoir quality (hydrocarbon drainage), multiple horizons (zone connectivity), and well spacing (high-density drilling). The paper also showcases case studies in which real-time observations made from wells have been used to validate predictions from forward-looking fracture and production models.
First, fracture hits commonly have been observed in all unconventional plays throughout the US, with effects on offset wells being mixed. Some fracture hits result in a positive uptick in production in offset wells, whereas other fracture hits affect production negatively in the form of increased water cut, reduced wellhead pressure, and other responses. Understanding fracture hits and their influence on other wells is very critical to avoid any detrimental impacts or to leverage positive effects on production. Second, reservoir quality decides how much oil in place is available for the DUC wells to drain, which, in turn, depends on length of production history and parent-well-completion geometries in offset wells. Third, in basins where there are multiple producing horizons or formations, fracture-height growth and interference between adjacent formations can result in asymmetric fracture propagation toward depleted zones. The longer these wells completed in the same/adjacent formations have been on production, the greater the extent of asymmetry will be. Addressing this concern requires a good understanding of drainage patterns from offset wells and evaluation of their impact on fracture geometries in DUC wells. Last, in areas with high-density drilling, a combination of longer production and fracturing stages with multiple perforation clusters per stage can leave very little oil available for the DUC well to produce.