In the last five years North America has changed the oil and gas markets by using horizontal drilling and multistage hydraulic fracturing to unlock the hydrocarbons in low‐permeability reservoirs. This unexpected increase in natural gas production over a short period of time in the US has led to extremely low prices due to over‐supplying the market. There are indications that the US will become an exporter of natural gas, rather than an importer, as originally planned. These plays require new technologies that enable reservoir characterization, horizontal drilling, multistage completions, and multistage hydraulic fracturing. All these technologies have evolved at a very rapid pace and continue to do so. This paper will focus on the completion technologies.
Three completion techniques have emerged as the most effective and efficient in these types of formations; plug‐and‐perf, ball‐activated completions, and coiled tubing‐activated completions. The plug‐and‐perf technique is cemented in place and uses composite bridge plugs and perforations to isolate and divert the fracture to the correct stage. Ball‐activated completions use openhole packers to isolate the annulus and ball‐activated fracture (frac) sleeves to divert the fracture to the intended stage. Coiled tubing‐activated completions use cement to isolate the annulus, and coiled tubing‐activated sleeves or perforations to divert the frac fluid.
Each completion technique has benefits and considerations. The primary purpose of this paper is to give an overview of these completion types, discuss the benefits and considerations, and how they compare in different applications from an operations point of view. The secondary purpose of this paper is to discuss how drilling, completion, and fracturing can greatly affect each other and create limitations if these processes do not collaborate.