Microseismic monitoring of hydraulic fracturing in unconventional reservoirs is a valuable tool for delineating the effectiveness of stimulations, completions, and overall field development. Important information, such as fracture azimuth, fracture length, height growth, staging effectiveness, and many other geometric parameters, can typically be determined from good quality data sets. In addition, there are parameters now being extracted from microseismic data sets, or correlated with microseismic data, to infer other properties of the stimulation/completion system, such as stimulated reservoir volume (SRV), discrete fracture networks (DFNs), structural effects, proppant placement, permeability, fracture opening and closure, geohazards, and others. Much of the information obtained in this way is based on solid geomechanical or seismological principles, but some of it is speculative as well.
This paper reviews published data where microseismic results have been validated by experiments using some type of ground-truth or alternative measurement procedure, discusses the geomechanics and seismological mechanisms that can be reasonably considered in evaluating the likelihood of inferring given properties, and appraises the uncertainties associated with monitoring and the effect on any inferences about fracture behavior. Considerable data now exist from tiltmeters, fiber-optic sensing, tracers, pressure sensors, multi-well-pad experiments, and production interference that can be used to aid the validation assessment.
Relatively limited microseismic results have actually been validated in any consistent manner. Fracture azimuth from microseismic has been verified across a wide range of reservoir types using multiple techniques. Good validation of fracture length and height were performed in sandstones for planar fractures; fracture length and height in typical horizontal completions with multiple fractures or complexity have a lesser degree of verification. Other parameters, such as complexity, discrete fracture networks, source parameters, and SRV, have little supporting evidence to provide validation, even though they might have sound physical principles underlying their application. It is clear that microseismic monitoring would benefit from more attention to validation testing. In many cases, the data might be available but have not been used for validation purposes, or such results have not been published.