Estimating the effective permeability and microfracture (MF) conductivity for unconventional reservoirs can be challenging; however, a new method for estimating using a stochastic approach is discussed. This new analysis method estimates matrix permeability and the unpropped and propped MF conductivities during laboratory testing where MFs were propped with ultrafine particles (UFPs).

Kinetic Monte Carlo (KMC) simulations form the basis of the method used to estimate effective permeability of the core sample. First, the stochastic model was implemented to calculate effective matrix permeability of a small core taken from unfractured Eagle Ford and Marcellus formation samples using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images and adsorption data to obtain the pore-size distribution (PSD) within the sample. The KMC approach then evaluated the effect of various parameters influencing the conductivity of laboratory-created MFs. Case studies considered for this work investigate the conductivity improvement of a manmade MF as a function of the UFPs used as proppants that maintain width under high stress, the UFP (proppant) concentration, and the UFP flow perpendicular into a secondary or adjacent MF zone (2ndMF) penetrating the face of an opened MF during flow testing under stress. The leakoff area widths considered were 1, 2, and 3 mm and can be propped or unpropped.

Results obtained for the unfractured Eagle Ford and Marcellus samples closely correlate with other computational and experimental data available. For the laboratory-prepared nonpropped and propped MF samples, the effective propped width was determined to have the greatest effect on the MF conductivity, which increased by two orders of magnitude in the presence of the UFPs. The remaining two factors—proppant concentration and length of 2ndMFs—helped improve the effective MF conductivity in a linear manner; the highest proppant concentration and the 2ndMF zone resulted in the highest fracture conductivity achieved. Insight obtained from this study can be used to optimize fracturing designs by including UFPs and to create strategies for maximizing hydrocarbon recovery during development of unconventional resources where MFs are opened during stimulation treatments.

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