Located at the foothills of Tianshan mountains, western China, the Dibei tight gas reservoir has become one of the key exploration areas in last decade because of its large gas reserve potential. The previous exploration effort yielded mixed results with large variations of the production rates from these exploration wells and many rates are too low to be deemed as discovery wells. Petrophysical properties were excluded as controlling factors because these properties for most exploration wells are very similar. Under the large tectonic stress, heterogeneous natural fracture systems are induced and unevenly distributed in the reservoir, which might be the controlling factor for production. However, due to the limitation of the seismic data quality, quantitative fracture modeling with seismic is not possible for this field. A new method predicting the 3D occurrence of the natural fractures in the reservoir is needed.
In this study, geomechanics-based methods were used to predict the natural fracture systems in the reservoir. The methods started from classification of natural fracture systems based on borehole image and core data into either fold-related and/or fault-related fractures. Geomechanics-based structure restoration was conducted to compute the deformation and the perturbed stress field from the restoration of complex geological structures through time. A correlation was established between the fold-related perturbated stress field and the occurrence of fold-related fractures from wells to predict the 3D occurrence of this type of natural fractures. Meanwhile, the computation of the perturbed stress field around 3D discontinuities (i.e. faults) for one or more tectonic events was conducted by the Boundary Element Method (BEM) until a good match was achieved between the fault-related perturbed stresses and observed fault-related fractures from the wellbore. By using the output from the two methods, the discrete fracture network (DFN) model was constructed to explicitly represent the occurrence and geometry of the natural fracture system in the reservoir in a geological model. A geomechanical model was constructed based on an integrated workflow from 1D to 3D. The fracture stability was then calculated based on the 3D geomechnical model.
Detailed analysis was conducted among the DFN model, the geological model of the reservoir and productivity of the exploration wells, and very good correlation was revealed between the productivity of the exploration wells and the occurrence and geometry of the natural fractures and the structural position of the reservoir.
This study shows that geomechanics-based methods efficiently capture the occurrence of natural fracture systems and reveal the production-controlling factors of the tight gas reservoir. It demonstrates that geomechanics is a powerful tool to support successful exploration of the tight gas reservoir in tectonically stressed environments.