Gravel pack completion operations are a sand production management technique that is considered successful if the well produces no sand and has minimal impact upon the potential productivity and hydrocarbon recovery. However, statistics show that many gravel packed wells suffer reduced productivity as a result of damaging mechanisms induced by gravel pack operations and completion fluids. This provides an opportunity for improved hydrocarbon recovery if the mechanisms are understood.
A study was conducted to simulate the alterations caused by the gravel pack operations including gravel carrier fluid, completion fluid and lost circulation material. Simulations using reservoir core samples were carried out at near-wellbore conditions, in order to examine operational fluid interactions with the reservoir and assess the impact of a stimulation fluid. Cores from a range of rock types were selected, and prepared to initial gas-leg saturation. An operational sequence consisting of completion fluid, gas production, stimulation fluid, completion fluid, and production of gas was carried out, with permeability measurements before and after the sequence.
In all core samples, the introduction of the completion fluid during gravel pack installation resulted in alterations of 30-60% reduction in core permeability. Geological interpretative analysis showed damage mechanisms including clay fines movement and pore blockage, dissolution of native cement, and retention of operational fluid in the pores. It was believed that retention of fluids was having the most significant impact upon permeability. Stimulations were carried out for all samples to quantify the effect of acid on removing the formation damage resulting from the gravel pack operations. The experiments showed 5-10% improvement on average except for one core sample, which showed 40% improvement.
Based upon the previous results, a modified sequence was examined, utilizing an alternative stimulation fluid/acid sequence and adding an extra operational stage. The experiments showed that after treatment an improvement of around 10% was noted, and after an additional stage, a further 8% improvement was seen. The final permeability was over 80-90% of the initial permeability, indicating that there was the potential for good productivity and recovery of hydrocarbons.
The results of the study were applied to seven gravel pack jobs in three wells and the field results showed the reduction in productivity after gravel pack installation was around only 10%, compared to previous wells which showed more than 50% reduction in productivity.