Recovery factor analysis involves the integration of hydrocarbon pore volume from a core calibrated petrophysical analysis with the estimated ultimate recovery from the lateral wellbore. A key benefit is the normalization of performance among wellbores with varying oil in place volumes and establishment of “best practices” for well completions. A secondary benefit is a method to obtain production performance estimates for various landing zone options prior to drilling the lateral. Lastly, a comparison of recovery factors for various assumptions of producing height can provide a “reality check” on how much of the vertical pay column is connected to the wellbore via propped or unpropped conductivity. Initial results from analysis of over 150 Wolfcamp and Cline wells indicated an average recovery factor of 8.2% for 160 acre drainage areas. The performance study suggests that the producing heights in these low modulus formations are limited primarily to the propped height with limited unpropped height. This is a significant finding in that propped height from tracer surveys is limited to 50 to 60 ft regardless of the fluid type pumped with resultant producing heights of 100–150 ft when unpropped height is considered. The unpropped height estimate was made from a correlation to recovery factors. While normally propped heights can be improved in conventional reservoirs with gelled fluids, the higher viscosity fluids are shown to be ineffective at increasing propped heights in organic nanodarcy shales due to the large disconnect between break and closure times. Recommendations are provided to determine “best practices” to economically increase producing height, ideally with generic completion procedures using normal hybrid slickwater/borate systems. One option proposed is the use of coiled tubing to deliver the treatment via the annulus and then clean out the subsequent bridge plug location following a traditional “forced closure” procedure in the lateral to close the fracture prior to excessive proppant settling. Another option being discussed is the use of lightweight proppants, however the unit cost will need to be significantly reduced to make this an economic option due to the large proppant volumes required in shales. With lightweight proppants the volumes are reduced significantly due to the difference in specific gravity, however at the high unit cost this would still increase the stage cost by a factor of three. There are several other recently released products that have the potential to improve propped height and these should be thoroughly evaluated before dismissing them given the significant upside that exists. In many shale plays the gross pay thickness is well in excess of the expected conductive height and the ability to contact more vertical section should translate into significantly better production rates that may help justify the increased investment. The study should encourage additional research to be conducted in this area.

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