This paper presents a numerical assessment for the Maximum Operating Pressure (MOP) of a Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) project considering the effect of the Natural Fractures (NFs) and intrinsic anisotropy of the cap shale. Current numerical and heuristic assessments usually ignore the effect of the intrinsic and structural anisotropy of the cap shale in the caprock integrity studies.

A coupled Hydro-Thermo-Mechanical (HTM) model was developed to assess the MOP. The coupled model employed a novel constitutive model which was developed to investigate the effect of NFs and intrinsic anisotropy in the cap shale. The coupled model was validated against surface heave measurements, and later utilized in a sensitivity study to assess the MOP for cases with different number of NF sets, fracture density and fracture dip angle.

Results indicate that the MOP is highly sensitive to the fracture density and dip angle. According to the results, vertical fractures have minor effect on the MOP while oblique fractures with the dip angle between 25° to 65° significantly affect the MOP. Neglecting the NFs can lead to significant overestimation of the MOP. This highlights the necessity to include the NFs in the caprock integrity assessments.

The numerical model presented in this paper considers the intrinsic anisotropy and the presence of NFs in the cap shale, while existing mathematical tools for caprock integrity studies have not incorporated the intrinsic and structural anisotropy. Ignoring the anisotropy in caprock can potentially cause a considerable overestimation of the MOP.

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