Over the last decade, an industry wide shift to unconventional plays has occurred due to advances in technology allowing for the recovery of previously uneconomic reserves. The primary objective of completions in these unconventional reservoirs is to increase the effective surface area of the well to maximize reservoir contact. Horizontal drilling and multi-stage fracturing are two technologies which have accomplished this.

The two main methods of horizontal, multi-stage completions currently used in unconventional reservoirs are cemented liner "plug and perf" and open hole, multi-stage fracturing systems. This paper provides an introduction to unconventional reservoirs, describes the main methods of horizontal, multi-stage completions, and discusses how the choice of method can affect good fracturing practices as well as long-term production. Case study examples are presented from a variety of unconventional reservoirs including shale, tight sandstone and tight carbonate formations.

Operators working in a number of unconventional reservoirs, such as shales and other tight rock formations are experiencing faster than expected production decline rates, resulting in reduced long-term, ultimate recovery. This may be in part due to the abandonment of good fracturing practices with the advent of horizontal, multi-stage fracturing. Issues such as near wellbore conductivity, flowback, and fracture tortuosity, which can have a significant effect on the long-term production of wells, need to be considered when choosing a completion method, particularly for unconventional reservoirs.

Unconventional plays are becoming a significant part of the oil industry today and will become a bigger part in the future. It is important that the reservoirs are completed optimally to achieve maximum recovery. The information provided in this paper is applicable to unconventional resource plays worldwide.

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