This paper attempts to answer a fundamental question pertinent to fracture characterization of unconventional basement reserves using rock mechanics & petrophysics; are open fractures in basements necessary critically stressed? Evaluation of naturally occurring fractures are critical for production as well as reserves estimation. In this regard, a study well was drilled in the basement section of the Cauvery basin to explore unconventional pay zones & characterize the contributing fractures by integrated Geomechanical & Petrophysical analysis.
A suite of open hole logs including the basic, acoustic and electrical borehole images were acquired and an integrated approach was taken, including geomechanical analysis to identify the contributing fractures. Standard petrophysical evaluation in basements was inconclusive and porosity quantification from fractures posed a major challenge. Image log analysis involved identification of conductive and resistive fractures in the gauged wellbore and combining Stoneley reflectivity further indicated probable open fractures. Following this, a geomechanical analysis was carried out to determine the current in-situ stress orientation/magnitudes based on observed breakouts. Finally a CSF study was done to check for fracture slip events.
Based on the integrated study of Petrophysics and Geomechanics, an optimized workflow was developed and the critically stressed fractures were identified. It was found that, while some fractures strike direction was different from the present day maximum horizontal stress direction (SHmax), in general, most fractures were indeed aligned to SHmax. To check the fluid flowing capability of fracture networks, formation tester was deployed in selective zones for testing and sampling. Successful hydrocarbon sampling from selective fractures with orientation not aligned to SHmax led to the validation of the current study. The results proved that while most critically stressed/open fractures did indeed contribute to flow, a smaller fraction of the naturally occurring fractures while contributing to flow, were not necessarily aligned to the in situ orientations.
The results present a discrepancy between observation and the expectation that open fractures are necessarily oriented parallel or nearly parallel to modern-day SHmax. This works highlights the fact that although paleo-stresses may influence the fracture networks, it is the contemporary in-situ stresses that truly dominate fluid flow and only through a detailed understanding of the critically stressed areas, can we come to a decisive conclusion that further improves overall recovery.