Determining the best location for new wells is a complex problem that depends on reservoir and fluid properties, well and surface equipment specifications, and economic criteria. Numerical simulation is often the most appropriate tool to evaluate the feasibility of well configurations. However, since the data used to establish numerical models have uncertainty, so do the model forecasts. The uncertainties in the model reflect themselves in uncertainties of the outcomes of well configuration decisions.

We never possess the true and deterministic information about the reservoir but we may have geostatistical realizations of the truth constructed from the information available. An approach that can translate the uncertainty in the data to uncertainty in the well placement decision in terms of monetary value was developed in this study. The uncertainties associated with well placement were addressed within the utility theory framework using numerical simulation as the evaluation tool. The methodology was evaluated using the PUNQ-S3 model, which is a standard test case that was based on a real field. Experiments were carried on 23 history-matched realizations and a truth case was also available. The results were verified by comparison to exhaustive simulations. Utility theory not only offered the framework to quantify the influence of uncertainties in the reservoir description in terms of monetary value but also provided the tools to quantify the otherwise arbitrary notion of the risk attitude of the decision maker. A Hybrid Genetic Algorithm (HGA) was used for optimization.

In addition a computationally cheaper alternative was also investigated. The well placement problem was formulated as the optimization of a random function. The GA was used as the optimization tool. Each time a well configuration was to be evaluated, a different realization of the reservoir properties was selected randomly from the set of realizations all of which honored the geologic and dynamic data available from the reservoir. Numerical simulation was then carried out with this randomly selected realization to calculate the objective function value. This approach had the potential to incorporate risk attitudes of the decision maker andwas observed to be approximate but computationally feasible.


Optimization of well placement is a complex problem that has been investigated in previous studies1–9. Some of these studies looked into the assessment of uncertainty. However none has suggested a robust way to assess the uncertainty of well placement within a direct optimization context using the numerical simulator as the evaluation tool. Quantification of the qualitative notion of risk attitude has also not been addressed. Direct optimization constitutes the coupling of an optimization tool with the numerical model which, although accurate, is in most cases computationally infeasible. A hybrid approach used by Güyagüler and Horne9 was able to reduce the computational burden of making numerous simulations and was applied with good results to the Gulf of Mexico Pompano field. This hybrid approach is referred to as the Hybrid Genetic Algorithm (HGA) since it makes use of Genetic Algorithms (GAs), the polytope method and the proxy approach utilizing the ordinary kriging algorithm. The HGA as proposed by Güyagüler and Horne9 was based on the algorithm developed by Bittencort and Horne4, who hybridized the polytope method with the GA and the proxy approach that was proposed by Pan and Horne5. The HGA was also used in this study for the PUNQ-S3 reservoir.

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