Carbonate formations often require stimulation treatments to be developed economically. Sometimes, proppant fracturing yields better results than acid stimulation. Carbonates are seldom stimulated with large-mesh-size proppants due to admittance issues caused by fissures and high Young's modulus and narrow fracture width. The Magwa formation of Bahrain's Awali brownfield is a rare case in which large treatments using 12/20-mesh proppant were successful after the more than 50 years of field development.
To achieve success, a complex approach was required during preparation and execution of the hydraulic fracturing campaign. During the first phase, the main challenges that restricted achieving full production potential in previous stimulation attempts (both acid and proppant fracturing) were identified. Fines migration and shale instability were addressed during advanced core testing. Tests for embedment were conducted, and a full suite of logs was obtained to improve geomechanical modeling. In addition, a target was set to maximize fracture propped length to address the need for maximum reservoir contact in the tight Magwa reservoir and to maximize fracture width and conductivity.
Sufficient fracture width in the shallow oil formation was required to withstand embedment. Sufficient conductivity was required to clean out the fracture under low-temperature conditions (124° F) and to minimize drawdown along the fracture considering the relatively low energy of the formation (pore pressure less than 1,000 psi). Understanding the fracture dimensions was critical to optimize the design. Independent measurement using high-resolution temperature logging and advanced sonic anisotropy measurements after fracturing helped to quantify fracture height. As a result of the applied comprehensive workflow, 18 wells were successfully stimulated, including three horizontal wellbores with multistage fracturing - achieving effective fracture half-lengths of 450-to 500-ft. Oil production from the wells exceeded expectations and more than doubled the results of all the previous attempts. Production decline rates were also less pronounced due to achieved fracture length and the ability to produce more reservoir compartments. The increase in oil recovery is due to the more uniform drainage systems enabled by the conductive fractures.
The application of new and advanced techniques taken from several disciplines enabled successful propped fracture stimulation of a fractured carbonate formation. Extensive laboratory research and independent geometry measurements yielded significant fracture optimization and resulted in a step-change in well productivity. The techniques and lessons learned will be of benefit to engineers dealing with shallow carbonate reservoirs around the world.