Hydraulic fractures play a central role in the performance of multistage fractured horizontal wells (MFHWs) in tight and shale reservoirs. Fracture conductivity variations and connection quality between fractures and wellbore (i.e., choking skins) strongly affect well productivity. However, convincing and high-quality evaluations of hydraulic fractures for these reservoirs are rare in literature because quantifying fracture properties requires decoupling them from fracture geometry and formation properties, a difficult task in most field conditions. A data gathering and hypothesis testing program was implemented using six multifractured horizontal wells in a pad in the Delaware Basin to improve our ability to reliably forecast well performance. A systematic approach utilizing production, shut-ins, and bottomhole pressure measurements (BHP) was conducted and used to evaluate the apparent flow capacity of hydraulic fractures. Two independent techniques were used in the data analyses to characterize the hydraulic fractures; namely, pressure transients for individual wells and significant well-to-well interference signals. Both techniques render similar decline rate interpretations for the sets of fracture conductivity/permeability from analysis of the pressure data, but there is a large difference in the uncertainty of the estimated results from these two methods.

The first method used a radial/linear flow regime in successive pressure buildups in three of the six wells. Simulations and theoretical analysis show that this flow regime allows decoupling fracture conductivity from fracture geometry and matrix properties. This flow regime yields the total apparent fracture conductivity (TAFC), which represents the lump sum effect of fracture conductivity. In addition, this technique characterizes the connection condition between the dominant fractures and borehole, which can be estimated from the early derivative horizontal line in pressure transient log-log diagnostic plots with minimum assumptions. Specifically, the estimated TAFC ranges from 1,140 to 1,630 md-ft at early time of well life to 525 to 855 md-ft after 100 to 139 days in production, or about a 45 to 61% reduction among these wells.

The second method uses time-lag of pulse interference responses between an active and observation well. With assumptions of low, mid, and high values of fracture porosity, fracture compressibility, and fluid viscosity, characteristic fracture permeability can be estimated. Because of the large uncertainty related to the assumed fracture porosity and fracture compressibility, the pulse interference method is not likely to deliver the same certainty range as successive pressure buildups using the radial/linear flow regime.

The results of this work provide a better understanding of the mechanisms of flow transport inside hydraulic fractures and at the connection between the hydraulic fractures and wellbore. The estimated TAFC and its significant decline help improve hydraulic fracturing designs and build representative reservoir models for more reliable well performance modeling and forecasting.

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