Hydraulic fracturing has been well established in the Southern North Sea (SNS) since the mid-1980s; however, it has typically been conducted as the final phase of development in new gas fields. One of these fields is Chiswick located in the Greater Markham area 90 miles offshore UK in 130 ft of water. Following an unsuccessful well repair of the multi-fractured horizontal well C4, it was decided to cost-effectively and expediently exploit the remaining pressure-depleted reserves near the toe via a single large fracture initiated from a deviated sidetrack wellbore designated C6. A deviated wellbore was chosen versus the original near-horizontal well to reduce well risk and costs and ultimately deliver an economic well.

Several key challenges were identified, and mitigating measures were put in place. Modular formation dynamics tester data from the sidetrack open hole indicated the reservoir pressure gradient had depleted to 0.23 to 0.25 psi/ft, raising concerns about the ability of the well to unload the fluid volumes associated with a large fracture treatment. Wellbore deviation and azimuth with the associated potential for near-wellbore tortuosity would drive a typically short perforation interval (i.e., 3 ft). However, a compromise to mitigate convergent pressure loss in depletion was required, and the perforation interval was therefore set at 14 ft with provision made for robust step-down tests (SDT) and multi-mesh sand slugs. To further offset any near-well convergence pressure drop during cleanup, an aggressive tip screenout (TSO) proppant schedule, including a high concentration tail-in (12 PPA) with an aggressive breaker schedule, was executed to fully develop propped hydraulic width.

Following formation breakdown and SDT to 40 bbl/min, the well went on near-instantaneous vacuum. Clearly, an extremely conductive feature had been created or contacted. However, upon use of a robust crosslinked gel formulation and 100-mesh sand, the bottomhole and positive surface pressure data allowed a suitable fracture design to be refined and placed with a large width, as evidenced by the extreme 2,309-psi net pressure development over that of the pad stage while placing 500,500 lbm of 16/30 resin-coated (RC) intermediate strength proppant (ISP) to 12 PPA. Although a lengthy nitrogen lift by coiled tubing (CT) was planned, the well cleanup response in fact allowed unaided hydrocarbon gas flow to surface within a short period. The well was then further beaned-up under well test conditions to a flow rate of approximately 26 MMscf/D under critical flowing conditions with a higher bottomhole flowing pressure than that of the original C4 well. Given the last producing rate of the original multiple fractured horizontal wellbore was 27 MMscf/D at a drawdown of 1,050 psi through two separate hydraulic fractures, then the outcome of this well was judged to be highly successful and at the limit of predrill expectations.

This case history explains and details the rationale, methods, and techniques employed in well C6 to address the challenge of successful hydraulic fracture stimulation in a depleted formation. Challenges were addressed by combining a number of techniques, coupled with field experience, resulting in a highly productive well despite the relatively low reservoir pressure coupled with a limited time frame to plan and execute. These techniques are transferrable to other offshore gas fields in the region where reservoir depletion makes economic recovery difficult or indeed prohibitive.

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