This paper explores a holistic approach to characterize trouble stages by applying automated event recognition of abnormal pressure increases and associating those events to formation and operational causes. This analysis of pressure increases provides insight into the potential causes of operational difficulties, and the related diagnostics can suggest improvements to future pump schedules. Improving how stages are pumped is profitable both in the short-term (reducing wasted fluid and chemicals, and other remediation measures) and in the long-term (increased well productivity). Quantifying how design decisions ultimately affect operations can help decrease the frequency of operational problems and help realize these gains.

In this study, the identification of problematic frac stages was initially performed manually (stage-by-stage) using a cloud-based hydraulic fracture data application. During this process, the team recognized that the problem stages had their own characteristic pressure signature - a sudden unexplained pressure increase in the absence of rate changes. A machine learning algorithm was then developed to automatically identify this type of signature. Additionally, previously published machine learning algorithms were used to recognize other operational events of interest, e.g., when proppant reaches the perforations. Then by combining the various events and creating short search windows around each abnormal pressure increase, it is possible to find concurrent operations that may be associated with the observed pressure behavior.

A subsequent statistical analysis revealed that abnormal pressure increases often coincided with changes in proppant concentration in problem stages (stages with abnormal treating pressure behavior). This behavior may be due to near-wellbore effects caused by the changing fluid flow dynamics. Furthermore, it was observed that treating pressures that behaved contrary to hydrostatic pressure effects may be useful in identifying when injectivity is lost and provide an early signal for screen outs.

Through this holistic approach, we were able to identify trouble stages and discern some diagnostics for automated detection of abnormal treating pressure increases. The team was able to identify areas within the stages that were inefficiently pumped, resulting in cost-savings through optimization of proppant and friction reducer (FR) loadings while maintaining a level of caution to prevent screen outs. Finally, the automated detection of pressure anomalies offers a pathway to the real-time prediction and avoidance of operational difficulties such as pressure outs and screen outs.

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