Abstract

There is worldwide interest in the development of shale plays: North America has attracted noteworthy investments, while other continents are ready to follow that example. Besides the increasing commercial significance of shale plays, traditional volumetric and material balance approaches that are used for petroleum asset evaluation fail to address the special attributes of such formations, or they cannot rely on measurable and practical input. The current practice is to statistically analyze historical records in developed areas and to apply the derived type curves in new areas by assuming performance similarity. Provided that there is a sufficient statistical record base, the assumption of similarity is challenged by the multitude of parameters influencing performance. These tend to differ, introducing considerable uncertainties into predictions. As the advanced drilling and fracture stimulation techniques were introduced in the last decade, historical records support only the early production history, while late performance is extrapolated without many reference points to match.

This paper investigates the applicability of traditional and non-traditional empirical, analytical and numerical methods that are used to predict shale well performance. The goal is to rationalize the link between natural/stimulated rock description with oil and gas recovery mechanisms in a way that is practical at various scales of resolution and covers early and late times. The authors have investigated the application of performance analysis techniques that are fit for macroscopic view and numerical methods that describe multiple mechanisms at a much higher level of resolution. Special features such as flow through fracture networks, gas desorption and geomechanical effects are incorporated in numerical simulation in a way that relates to the measurable petrophysical and geophysical input. Although the application of such macro- and micro-analysis has been examined within only a few case studies, it is suggested that future work would test and improve the application of these shale engineering principals. In retrospect, this study offers an understanding of mechanisms and limitations that can be used for optimization, or for the scaling-up results from a certain area to other areas that differ in natural attributes and may also adopt different design and operational practices.

The simulation exercise reported in this paper represents an idealized situation and it should not be inferred that this can be used to indicate recovery from any specific shale reservoir or well, which would require additional study and appropriate incorporation of practical data that were not available to the authors in the public domain.

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