In an unconventional reservoir, the success of a project is driven by the completion. Unconventional plays have become the primary area of development in the US, and shale formations dominate the current rig activity. Most shale wells are drilled utilizing long horizontal wellbores, and completed using cemented or uncemented casing strings. To be economic, they require large hydraulic fracture treatments in multiple stages along the lateral.

Total well costs are driven by the cost of fracturing, often representing as much as 60% of the total well cost. This requires the operator to select the best completion method which includes casing and wellhead selection that is based on stimulation needs. The stimulation is regulated by injection rates, treating pressures, the volume of the stimulation, type of fluid, proppant selection, perforations, and the number of stages.

This paper focuses on several areas that are critical in a successful completion such as: casing size and pressure rating, wellhead selection, treatment design, spacing of the perforations and stages, linear verses cross-linked fluid, and the impact of proppant selection. With over 1800 wells completed and stimulated so far, a comparison of successful treatments and the cause of unsuccessful treatments will be provided. A review of actual field applications will be presented where possible, and a method for identifying best completion practices will be discussed.

Those working in or considering developments in unconventional plays around the world will be able to compare their current completion techniques to those presented in the paper. In addition, while no two resource plays are the same, the findings in this paper can be used by engineers as a guide for moving up the learning curve more quickly in other unconventional plays.

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