A considerable amount of effort goes into designing one of the deepest frac jobs in the world. For the past several years, Petrobras has been working on developing the Cascade and Chinook fields which are located in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), 250 miles south of New Orleans in ultra deepwater depths between 8200 ft and 8900 ft. The oil producing reservoir is in the Lower Tertiary Wilcox formation with a gross sand thickness of 1200 ft. The reservoir mid-point is at an average depth of 25, 600’ TVD with a bottomhole pressure of 19, 500 psi and a bottomhole temperature of 260°F. The reservoir is comprised of vertically stacked thin beds of sand and fine grained siltstone intervals with effectively no vertical permeability. Additional information on this project can be found in a paper written by Moraes el al (2010).

Multiple limitations were considered during the initial design phase of the frac pack program. The fracs were designed taking into account the use of a Single-Trip Multi-Zone sand control system. Although this system was not crucial in the overall implementation of the frac program, it added additional complexity from an operation stand point due to a continuous, multi-stage frac operation. Some of the operation limitations included service tool erosion limitations due to maximum pump rates and proppant volumes, overall frac vessel capacity, boat-to-boat fluid transfers and crew fatigue. The geological complexities of the reservoir were another major challenge in completing this very thick interval. Perforation intervals had to be placed to avoid a fault (and thus a potential early screenout), avoid a water contact, comply with tool spacing limitations and still maximize contact with net pay.

This paper addresses the approach taken to develop a fracture stimulation program for the Lower Tertiary formation in the Cascade and Chinook fields. Some of the major questions addressed during this process include the following: how many fracture treatments are needed, what is the optimum fracture geometry, what is the desired conductivity, how to effectively position the perforation intervals, what is the desired pump rate and is a high-density fluid needed to fracture this deep, high-pressure formation? The approach, the answers and the treatment are discussed along with responses to additional questions that arose during the actual fracturing operations.

Along with the Lower Tertiary in the GOM, the industry faces similar challenges around the world. These include reservoirs with potentially large reserves but much lower permeability (due to depth and in-situ stresses) where fracturing is required for both stimulation and potential formation collapse sand control. Careful planning is necessary to avoid costly learning curves in these environments.

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