It is widely agreed that gas reservoirs with a component of water drive should be produced at high rates to minimize the volume of gas which is trapped at high pressure by the advancing water (often termed ‘outrunning the aquifer’). Yet high production rates are also associated with coning (in vertical wells) or cresting (in horizontal wells) of the encroaching water, leading to early water breakthrough. In vertical wells, the formation of an inverse gas cone means that high gas rates can be maintained post-breakthrough until almost the whole perforated interval is flowing water. However, in horizontal wells, water breakthrough is a serious threat to gas deliverability, because the inverse coning mechanism does not apply and the well rapidly loads with water. Consequently, it is not clear whether producing at high rates is the best strategy to maximize recovery in gas reservoirs developed using horizontal wells.
We investigate the risk associated with producing horizontal wells at high rates by simulating gas recovery and aquifer response over a broad range of reservoir properties and production scenarios. We find that high rates always result in lower gas recovery unless the ratio of vertical to horizontal permeability is very low, in which case water cresting is suppressed. However, there are many instances where accelerating production recovers only slightly less gas over much shorter timescales, so may be economically favorable. Rate sensitivity increases in low permeability reservoirs with thin gas columns, because these conditions increase the tendency for water cresting, and decreases in reservoirs with strong aquifer support, since water breakthrough occurs regardless of the rate at which the well is produced. Our results can be used as a reference framework to rapidly assess gas production behavior and aquifer response within a wide range of field development scenarios.