It has often been reported that the peak production of a well drilled in tight formations is highly dependent on the fracture contact area. However, there is no efficient approach to estimate the fracture surface area at present. In this paper, we propose a method to calculate the fracture surface area based on the falloff data after each stage of the main hydraulic fracture treatment.
The created hydraulic fracture closes freely before its surfaces hit on the proppant pack, and this process can be recognized on the pressure falloff data and its diagnostic plots. The pressure decline rate during fracture closure is mainly caused by fluid leakoff from the fracture system into the formation matrix. For a horizontal well drilled in the same formation, we may assume the same leakoff coefficient among all stages, so the total fracture surface area can be calculated for all stages to meet the requirement of the fluid leakoff rate.
Wellbore storage effect, friction dissipation and tip extension dominate the early pressure falloff data. While the transient dominated by friction losses typically lasts about one minute, tip extension may end after about 15 minutes. Therefore, falloff data should be acquired for at least 30 minutes to observe a fracture closure trend. The fracture closure behavior can be identified on the G-function plot as an extrapolated straight line or on the Bourdet derivative in log-log plot as a late time unit slope. The behavior of the late unit slope depends on the pressure decline rate, or correspondingly, to the fluid leakoff rate. Therefore, the total fracture surface area can be estimated using hydraulic fracture design input values for formation leakoff coefficient and fracture closure stress. The calculated fracture surface area represents the combined area of primary and secondary fractures, effectively all fracture surfaces contributing to the fluid leakoff.
We applied the approach to all stages in a horizontal well that exhibit the fracture closure behavior. The approach shows promise as a straightforward way to estimate fracture surface areas that could, enable, in turn, an early estimate for the expected well performance.