The highly complex geology of the Sichuan Shale gas play, especially in relation to natural fracture systems at different scales, affects the hydraulic completion efficiency and performance. Ant-tracking-based workflows and borehole image data are regularly used to optimize completion campaigns, but bridge-plug-stuck and screen-out risks are still high. The lack of sufficient understanding and accurate identification of the natural fracture systems are the major challenges to address these engineering risks.

Surface microseismic monitoring campaigns were conducted over several wells of the Changning field, Sichuan Basin, China. The surface receivers were placed in a radial pattern to record microseismicity generated by hydraulic fracturing. The failure mechanism of all mapped microseismic events (i.e., strike, dip, rake, etc.) was extracted using a moment tensor inversion (MTI) method. Improved understanding of the natural fracture systems and their influence during the hydraulic fracturing process has been achieved by integrating the regional geological data, pumping data and MTI results.

Several hydraulic fracturing cases that stimulated near natural fracture systems were investigated. The microseismic monitoring results show that (i) most of the hydraulically induced fractures located in the vicinity of the natural facture or fault did not propagate along the regional maximum stress direction, (ii) the bridge plug got stuck and (iii) screen-out happened frequently in these areas. Moment tensor inversion reveals that (i) the dominant failure mechanism of the natural fractures different from hydraulically induced fractures, (ii) more than one group of natural fractures develop along different directions.

Real-time adjustments of the pumping schedule and bridge-plug settings were conducted to reduce engineering risks based on the improved understanding of natural fractures, which proved effective. The innovation of using surface microseismic monitoring results to improve understanding of natural fractures and reduce the engineering risks in real time represents a key step forward to mitigate natural fracture influence and improve the effectiveness of stimulation.

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