There is a very extensive amount of information and learnings from naturally fractured reservoirs (NFRs) around the world collected throughout several decades. This paper demonstrates how the information and learnings can be linked with tight and shale reservoirs (TSRs) with the objective of maximizing hydrocarbon recovery from TSRs.
A classic definition indicates that a natural fracture is a macroscopic planar discontinuity that results from stresses that exceed the rupture strength of the rock (Stearns, 1982). Stearns' definition has been applied successfully for several decades. In this paper, the definition is extended to include not only macroscopic planar discontinuities but also planar and sinuous discontinuities that extend throughout different scales including micro and nano fractures. The paper demonstrates that, as in the case of the continuum that exists in process speed (the ratio of permeability and porosity, Aguilera, 2014), there is also a continuum of pore throat apertures of different sizes, natural fractures with different apertures, and Biot coefficients for different rocks. All of these directly or indirectly which affect reservoir performance.
Actual observations in TSRs indicate that micro and nano natural fractures do not flow significant volumes of oil or gas toward horizontal wells. Thus, the wells must be hydraulically fractured in multiple stages to achieve commercial production. Once the wells are hydraulically fractured, the area exposed to the shale reservoir is enlarged and the natural micro and nano fractures flow hydrocarbons toward the hydraulic fracture, which in turn based on the values of hydraulic fracture permeability, feeds those hydrocarbons to the wellbore. In TSRs there are also completely cemented macroscopic fractures that are breakable by hydraulic fracturing and can become very effective conduits of hydrocarbons toward the wellbore.
The link that exists between natural fractures at significantly different scales established in this paper is a valuable observation. This is so because the larger tectonic, regional and contractional (diagenetic) fractures that exist in NFRs have been studied extensively for several decades, for example in carbonates, sandstones, and basement rocks. Those learnings from NFRs have not been used to full potential in TSRs for maximizing oil and gas recoveries. This paper provides the necessary tools for remediating that situation.
The established link between NFRs and TSRs permits determining how to drill and complete wells in TSRs. It is concluded that this link will lead to (1) improvements in gas production performance, and (2) maximizing economic oil rates and recoveries under primary, improved oil recovery (IOR) and enhanced oil recovery (EOR) production schemes.