Modern hydraulic fracture treatments are specifically designed to unlock reserves from particular rock types, especially in unconventional reservoirs. Progressive improvements in fracture design can be critically informed by post stimulation pressure analysis, yet this process is often overlooked. This paper documents the evolution of fracture designs by successively incorporating post-stimulation pressure analyses after major design changes that ultimately led to the design-optimization of fracture treatments in low permeability coals. The coals under context are the Walloons coal measures in Jurassic to Cretaceous aged rocks in the Surat Basin of southeast Queensland, Australia.

Significant challenges are faced in stimulating the Walloons coal measures due to their thin-bedded nature, that range from 0.2 to 3.0 m [0.66 to 9.8 ft] in thickness and, which are also inter-bedded with low permeability siltstones, minor sandstones and carbonaceous shales. Net coal thickness is 20 to 40 m [98.43 to 131.23 ft] in a gross sequence of 300 to 400 m [948.3 to 1,312.3 f] thickness. Reservoir complexity is further impacted by lateral continuity variations of coals, which generally have a high Poisson’s ratio (>0.32). In particular where coal reservoirs display low permeability, understanding and implementing reservoir beneficial fracture treatments becomes pivotal to successful well performance.

Modification of fracture designs during the fracture campaign included changing key parameters such as fluid types, pump rates, proppant loading and gel concentration. Both, the treatment and the calculated bottom-hole pressures, were evaluated using 3D fracture models, supplemented by an array of diagnostics such as surface tilt-meters, diagnostic fracture injection tests, micro-seismic monitoring and tracer logs as well as log derived stress models. The results of these diagnostics helped shape the design changes implemented throughout the campaign and has influenced designs for future trials also. Ultimately, it was observed that the treatments that were pumped using low gel loadings in conjunction with high proppant concentrations, and at relatively lower rates, resulted in better well performance.

This paper presents the design and treatment evaluation process and also provides an insight into the progression of fracture design and subsequent treatments which were successful in overcoming reservoir complexities. The outlined approach can be used to refine hydraulic fracture treatment designs in similar complex reservoirs in Queensland, with worldwide applicability.

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