Fiber-optic cables cemented outside of the casing of an unconventional well measure crosswell strain changes during fracturing of neighboring wells with low-frequency distributed acoustic sensing (LF-DAS). As a hydraulic fracture intersects an observation well instrumented with fiber-optic cables, the fracture fluid injected at ambient temperatures can cool a section of the sensing fiber. Often, LF-DAS and distributed temperature sensing (DTS) cables are run in tandem, enabling the detection of such cooling events. The increasing use of LF-DAS for characterizing unconventional hydraulic fracture completions demands an investigation of the effects of temperature on the measured strain response by LF-DAS. Researchers have demonstrated that LF-DAS can be used to extract the temporal derivative of temperature for use as a differential-temperature-gradient sensor. However, differential-temperature-gradient sensing is predicated on the ability to filter strain components out of the optical signal.
In this work, beginning with an equation for optical phase shift of LF-DAS signals, a model relating strain, temperature, and optical phase shift is explicitly developed. The formula provides insights into the relative strength of strain and temperature effects on the phase shift. The uncertainty in the strain-rate measurements due to thermal effects is estimated. The relationship can also be used to quantify uncertainties in differential-temperature-gradient sensors due to strain perturbations. Additionally, a workflow is presented to simulate the LF-DAS response accounting for both strain and temperature effects. Hydraulic fracture geometries are generated with a 3D fracture simulator for a multistage unconventional completion. The fracture width distributions are imported by a displacement discontinuity method (DDM) program to compute the strain rates along an observation well. An analytic model is used to approximate the temperature in the fracture. Using the derived formulae for optical phase shift, the model outputs are then used to compute the LF-DAS response at a fiber-optic cable, enabling the generation of waterfall plots including both strain and thermal effects.
The model results suggest that before, during, and immediately following a fracture intersecting a well instrumented with fiber, the strain on the fiber drives the LF-DAS signal. However, at later times, as completion fluid cools the observation well, the temperature component of the LF-DAS signal can be equal to or exceed the strain component. The modeled results are compared to a published field case in an attempt to enhance the interpretation of LF-DAS waterfall plots. Finally, we propose a sensing configuration to identify the events when “wet fractures” (fractures with fluids) intersect the observation well.