Well planning in mature fields can be challenging as the more marginal reserves are targeted. Hydraulic fracture stimulation is a key technology to access multiple reservoir layers and thereby maximize recovery. However, fracture propagation in low porosity carbonates may be strongly confined because of high tensile strengths in bounding layers. The strong confinement can impede vertical fracture propagation and the ability to access reservoir units adjacent to the initiation interval. Understanding vertical hydraulic fracture growth through low porosity layers improves the hydraulic fracture design, enhances reservoir deliverability potential and enables the identification of infill well potential and intervention opportunities.

The South Arne field is located in the northern part of the Danish sector of the North Sea. The Tor and Ekofisk formations are high porosity/low permeability chalks with low to moderate natural fracturing. Porosities may reach 45%, but a hard low porosity interval of 10% or less at the bottom of the Ekofisk formation separates and partially compartmentalizes (horizontally) the two formations. A series of indirect tensile strength measurements on South Arne cores were conducted. The measurements verified a suspected exponential increase in tensile strength at low porosities, essentially causing the tensile strength to exceed 1,500 psi in some cases.

Recent 4D seismic surveys have enabled separate sweep patterns for each reservoir unit to be mapped and indicate that the sweep is much less efficient in the Ekofisk. This supports that the hydraulic fracture stimulation treatments initiated in the Tor formation are not accessing the upper units to the degree previously assumed and it appears that connection is occurring via pre-existing faults and/or natural fractures. The hydraulic fractures propagate nearly longitudinal to the wellbore, guided by regional stresses, with limited height growth. However, production effects, specifically compaction induced by draw down, may perturb the stress field sufficiently so that the preferred alignment is not achieved, further reducing sweep efficiency. This is indicated by 3D coupled geomechanical modeling and is corroborated by 4D seismic observations.

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