Unconventional resources such as Bakken shale have made a significant impact on the global energy industry, but the primary recovery factor still lingers from 5% to 15 %. Over the past ten years, a number of pilot tests for both gas and water injection or their cyclic injection have been implemented to improve oil recovery in the Bakken Formation. The available public data show that the injectivity is not a problem, but only a small increase in production. The obvious reason is unexpected early breakthroughs even with a relatively low reservoir permeability of around 0.03 mD. Lots of experimental and simulation studies have been conducted to investigate different mechanisms behind these improved oil recoveries. However, no one has succeeded to clarify this early breakthrough.

In this study, a simulation reservoir model, including two wells, is developed, whose properties are based on public data. In terms of hydraulic fractures for each well, their geometry and conductivities are evenly built. Furthermore, our geomechanical module is applied to capture the evolution of stress field and rock failure, where a Barton-Bandis model and a Mohr–Coulomb failure criterion are applied to model tensile and shear failure, respectively. Our simulation model coupled with the geomechanical module is then implemented to explain the performance of injection pilot test.

The results of this initial study clearly show the new fractures (frac-hits) induced by water injection connect the injection and production wells, resulting in the early water breakthrough. The stress field has also been altered by the production process to favor the formation of these fractures. This study highlights the importance of geomechanics during an IOR process; identifies the reasons for the early breakthrough and provides an insight view about how to improve oil production in the Bakken Formation.

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