Geologic, and historical well failure, production, and injection data were analyzed to guide development of three-dimensional geomechanical models of the Belridge Diatomite Field, California. The central premise of the numerical simulations is that spatial gradients in pore pressure induced by production and injection in a low permeability reservoir may perturb the local stresses and cause subsurface deformation sufficient to result in well failure. Time-dependent reservoir pressure fields that were calculated from three-dimensional finite difference reservoir simulations were input into three-dimensional nonlinear finite element geomechanical simulations. The reservoir models included nearly 100,000 gridblocks (100-200 wells), and covered nearly 20 years of production and injection. The geomechanical models were meshed from structure maps and contained more than 300,000 nodal points. Shear strain localization along weak bedding planes that causes casing dog-legs in the field was accommodated in the model by contact surfaces located immediately above the reservoir and at two locations in the overburden. The geomechanical simulations are partially validated by comparison of the predicted surface subsidence with field measurements, and by comparison of predicted deformation with observed casing damage. Further, simulations performed for two independently developed areas at South Belridge, Sections 33 and 29, corroborate their different well failure histories. The simulations suggest the three types of casing damage observed, and show that although water injection has mitigated surface subsidence, it can, under some circumstances, increase the lateral gradients in effective stress, that in turn can accelerate subsurface horizontal motions. Geomechanical simulation is an important reservoir management tool that can be used to identify optimal operating policies to mitigate casing damage for existing field developments, and also applied to incorporate the effect of well failure potential in economic analyses of alternative infilling plans and operating strategies.

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