A distinct shift in wellbore fracture stimulation events has occurred within the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) over the last 5 years. New designs, commonly referred to as "increased fracture intensity designs," are characterized by an increased number of fracture stages, decreased fracture spacing, and resulting increases in water and proppant required per stimulation. Existing technology applied in increased fracture intensity designs include: Open Hole Ball and Seat technology, Coil Activated sleeves, Plug and Perforating, as well as hybrid designs that combine several technologies.

Increased fracture intensity designs have contributed to improved production rates and increased reserves and, as a result, have quickly become the preferred approach to hydraulic fracture stimulation of the reservoir. Promising hydraulic fracture designs and decreased spacing designs run the risk of being applied broadly without discrimination.

Without proper retrospective or hindsight, there is a risk of over applying this new approach with false assurances of its success rates. It is therefore important to determine whether and at what point increasing fracture intensity generates diminishing returns.

This paper provides 3 retrospective case studies within the regions of the greater Montney and Cardium formations where increased fracture intensity designs have led to decreased well production as well as decreased reserve allocation. We further examine the various components of increased fracture intensity designs to pinpoint areas where design optimization may have prevented these outcomes.

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