In recent years, a number of Basin-Centred, Tight Gas Sands and Shale Gas Exploration Wells have been tested in Australia. Since monetization of the resulting Contingent Resources involves embarking on a multi-year, multi-billion dollar mega-project, most operating companies use a formalized Stage Gate Process to critically review the maturation of the business opportunity.

To obtain adequate resources and time to undertake Appraisal Drilling and Field Development Option Assessments, the project must pass through a Stage Gate-1 Review of the Exploration results and scoping-quality economic screening of the potential development concept. Concept generation often relies on ideas obtained from literature reviews and brainstorming, as well as data gathering trips to somewhat analogous operations.

This paper summarizes observations from a somewhat disappointing data gathering initiative undertaken in 3Q2015 in Calgary to talk with knowledgeable Canadians about learnings from their Deep Tight Gas Sand Developments.

These interviews reconfirmed that many of the field development planning (FDP) issues discussed in the literature and at technical conferences over the last 25 years remain in-play:

  • Significant resources and time should be allocated to the Appraisal TGS plays. Many existing projects initially suffered from inadequate access to properly preserved and representative core materials and/or rotary sidewall cores.

  • A broad ranging assessment of development alternatives and feasibility studies is recommended in Stage 2, before committing to FEED.

  • There are multiple drivers for the use of large well pads with either integrated facilities or proximal facility hubs. This also facilitates fuel substitution and the re-use of fuel gas, frac fluid handling and power lines for other services later in the field's life.

  • Pilot studies and phased developments are desirable to address a wide range of reservoir uncertainties, completion options and artificial lift methods. However, it may be possible to defer some pilots that address Tactical Issues into Stage-5 to increase hydrocarbon capture.

  • Some operators are now revisiting ideas that were popular more than 25 years ago, including the use of non-aqueous frac fluids and/or stable foams.

  • The FDP, pad and completion designs should anticipate both re-fracturing and infill drilling requirements. Much greater attention is now being paid to fracture effectiveness, rather than simply operational effectiveness and CAPEX reduction.

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