Shale gas currently provides 20% of domestic supply, is targeted by half of the gas-directed drilling rigs, and represents the large majority of domestic resources. However, modern shale plays, their development strategies and their engineering analysis are young by comparison to those of conventional reservoirs. Uncertainty in shale gas reserves has significant implications at both the micro and macro levels.
Conventional reservoir engineering tools must be viewed as potentially inadequate (or even inappropriate) for the evaluation of shale gas performance primarily because of the extremely low aggregate permeability of these systems, but also because of other unique aspects of the systems. Reservoir modeling (simulation) has an important role as an assessment and prediction tool; however, the character of the reservoir (induced and enhanced natural fractures) must be considered, as well as the geological and fluid characteristics. Rate-transient analysis (modern decline analysis) techniques are also more rigorous and have been expanded and adapted to fit the uniqueness of shale gas production. Application of each method for shale gas is discussed, including methods and limitations. These two techniques more closely represent the physics of shale gas production, but their implementation is often prohibitive.
By way of necessity, much engineering evaluation is performed using Arps decline curve analysis. This technique is argued by some to be inappropriate due to a lack of theoretical support and demonstrated tendency to over-estimate reserves in tight gas systems. Given the limitations, practical methods exist to reduce error associated with its use. A newer decline method, power-law exponential, is also investigated.