Unconventional gas resource plays continue to have a significant impact on natural gas production in the US due to recent technological advances and higher demand for gas. In the US, 22% of the total energy consumed comes from natural gas. The US domestic production of natural gas is around 85% of the demand; currently about half of that comes from unconventional resources. Primary unconventional sources are tight gas, shale gas, and coalbed methane (CBM). Tight gas, shale gas and CBM production accounts for approximately 28%, 14% and 8%, respectively, of total US gas production. Total US production for 2010 is 21.57 tcf. Achieving sustainable production from unconventional gas resources requires reaching extended areas of the reservoir and performing effective hydraulic fracturing, with its associated technologies, to help reduce risk and increase the success rate.

Compared to production in vertical wells, the production of tight gas and shale gas in horizontal wells has increased significantly due to the ability to reach extended areas as a result of enhanced drilling technologies. Horizontal wells represent a large portion of the well count in US plays, with rigs for horizontal wells increasing from 10% to 58% of the total drilling rigs within the last 6 years (2005–2010). This increase in activity was achieved through careful engineering designs and use of new technologies to address the complexities involved in planning, drilling, completing, and stimulating horizontal wells. In recent years, microseismic hydraulic fracture monitoring (HFM) has become a key technology in understanding the propagation mechanism of the created fractures during stimulation treatments.

The paper discusses horizontal well drilling activity in a south Texas play over a 6-year period beginning in 2005. Drilling activity trends and completion practices in some tight gas and shale gas formations in the south Texas basin are highlighted. Additionally, the paper takes a look at the application of microseismic HFM to increase the success rate of horizontal wells in the south Texas basin by reducing some of the completion risks and challenges. Finally, the paper discusses ways to improve the overall completion and stimulation designs of horizontal wells in unconventional gas formations to ensure efficient recovery.

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