In this paper, the authors examine the impacts of natural fractures on the distribution of slurry in a well with a permanent fiber installation and drill bit geomechanics data. Additionally, they propose a framework for further investigation of natural fractures on slurry distribution.
As part of the Marcellus Shale Energy and Environmental Laboratory (MSEEL), the operator monitored the drilling of a horizontal Marcellus Formation well with drill bit geomechanics, and subsequent stimulation phase with a DAS/DTS permanent fiber installation. Prior to the completion, the authors used an analytical model to examine the theoretical distribution of slurry between perforation clusters from a geomechanics framework. A perforation placement scheme was then developed to minimize the stress difference between clusters and to segment stages by the intensity of natural fractures while conforming to standard operating procedures for the operator's other completions.
The operator initially began completing the well with the geomechanics-informed perforation placement plan while monitoring the treatment distribution with DAS/DTS in real time. The operator observed several anomalous stages with treating pressures high enough to cause operational concerns. The operator, fiber provider, and drill bit geomechanics provider reviewed the anomalous stages’ treatment data, DAS/DTS data, and geomechanics data and developed a working hypothesis. They believed that perforation clusters placed in naturally fractured rock were preferentially taking the treatment slurry. This phenomenon appeared to cause other clusters within the stage to sand-off or become dormant prematurely, resulting in elevated friction pressure. This working hypothesis was used to predict upcoming stages within the well that would be difficult to treat. Another perforation placement plan was developed for the second half of the well to avoid perforating natural fractures as an attempt to mitigate operational issues due to natural fracture dominated distribution.
Over the past several years, the industry's growing understanding of geomechanical and well construction variability has created new limited-entry design considerations to optimize completion economics and reduce the variability in cluster slurry volumes. Completion engineers working in naturally fractured fields, such as the Marcellus, should consider the impact the natural fractures have on slurry distribution when optimizing their limited-entry designs and stage plan.