With worldwide increases in the demand for hydrocarbons, finding and developing unconventional resources has become a global necessity. Outside North America, shale gas discoveries have been made in recent years; however, significant commercial production has been limited to North America. Finding and developing unconventional resources outside North America is the next big challenge for the oil and gas industry.

Although the reported potential of unconventional gas resource volumes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is almost similar in size to that in the US, exploration and development of such resources is currently limited. Unconventional reservoirs have very different and distinct requirements from conventional reservoirs. The more “unconventional” a targeted resource, the more difficult it is to develop. Furthermore, for these difficult resources, highly specialized technologies have to be applied because of the unique requirements.

Key challenges specific to the MENA region include the following:

  • Limited exposure to unconventional sources leads to lack of infrastructure and high cost.

  • Reservoir characteristics (rock and fluid properties) and geomechanics.

  • Implementation of directional/horizontal drilling and completion technologies suited for the region.

The most challenging aspect is using hydraulic fracturing (fluid availability and management, fracturing fluid and proppant selection, fracturing design, equipment) as it incurs the highest cost and deploys the maximum technological efforts. This paper highlights these associated challenges in developing unconventional resources and offers a potential approach to evaluate unconventional resources. Additionally, public data are reviewed and emerged technologies are used to unlock the potential of unconventional resources in MENA.

A major service company has exhaustive and varied data from different geographies and resource types captured in its MENA state-of-the-art data center. A potential approach is included that extrapolates historically available data relevant to directional drilling, fracture treatment design and analysis, and fluid management to MENA conditions to facilitate understanding and overcome challenges associated with unconventional resources.

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