Tight oil formations (permeability <1 mD) in Western Canada have recently emerged as a reliable source of light oil supply owing to the use of multi-fractured horizontal wells. The Cardium Formation, which contains 25% of Alberta’s total discovered light oil (according to Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board), consists of conventional and unconventional (low-permeability or tight) play areas. The conventional play areas have been developed since 1957. Contrarily, the development of unconventional play areas is relatively recent. The lag in development of the unconventional play is due to considerably poorer reservoir properties which increases the risk associated with capital investment. This in turn implies the need for a comprehensive and critical study of the area before planning any development strategy.

This paper presents performance results from the low permeability portions of the Cardium Formation where new horizontal wells have been drilled and stimulated in multiple stages to promote transverse hydraulic fractures. Development of the tight Cardium Formation using primary recovery is considered. The production data of these wells was first matched using a black oil simulator. The calibrated model presented was used for performance perditions based on sensitivity studies and investigations that encompassed design factors such as well spacing, fracture properties, and operational constraints. These simulation sensitivities were used to make economic predictions to assist with optimal design. In conclusion, based on our simulation results, we provide the operators of the Cardium tight portion with some recommendations to optimize both short and long-term profit.

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