Low permeability, naturally fractured reservoirs such as coal seam gas (CSG, coalbed methane or CBM) and shale gas reservoirs generally require well stimulation to achieve economic production rates. Coupling hydraulic fracturing and micro-proppant or graded particle injections (GPI) can be a means to maximise hydrocarbon recovery from these tight, naturally fractured reservoirs, by maintaining or improving cleat or natural fracture conductivity. This paper presents a summary of the National Energy Resources Australia (NERA) project "Converting tight contingent CSG resources: Application of graded particle injection in CSG stimulation" - which assessed the application of micro-proppants, providing guidance on key considerations for GPI application to CSG reservoirs.

Over the last decade, laboratory research and modelling have shown the benefits of the application of GPI to keep pre-existing natural fractures and induced fractures open during production of coal reservoirs with pressure dependent permeability (PDP). Laboratory studies, within this study, provide further insight on potential mechanisms and key factors, including proppant size and optimum concentration, which contribute to the success of a micro-proppant placement. Accompanying numerical modelling studies will be presented that describe the likely fluidized behaviour of micro-proppants (e.g., straining models, electrostatic effects, and ‘screen out’ prediction).

This paper outlines the necessary reservoir characterization, treatment considerations, and key numerical modelling inputs necessary for the design, execution, and evaluation of GPI treatments, whether performed standalone or in conjunction with hydraulic fracturing treatments. It also provides insight on the practical application of GPI efficiently into fracturing operations, minimizing natural and hydraulic fracturing damage effects, thereby maximizing potential production enhancement for coals, shales and other tight, naturally fractured reservoirs exhibiting pressure-dependent permeability effects.

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