This case study helped an operator in the Powder River Basin approach an optimized completion design. The operator used geomechanical measurements, hydraulic fracture modeling, and fracture diagnostics on two horizontal wells. The two wells are near a previously-completed, producing well (i.e., “parent” well).

While drilling the two horizontal wells, the operator acquired geomechanics data. This method, called drill bit geomechanics, measured the variability along the laterals. These data produced geomechanically-informed perforation and stage placements to minimize the differences in minimum horizontal stress across each stage. Additionally, the operator engineered the perforation sizes, which increased perforation friction to overcome the measured variability. The authors used the near-wellbore geomechanics data, along with other data, in a hydraulic fracture simulator. In general, standard hydraulic fracture simulators assume constant mechanical properties in each geologic layer. Compared to this standard practice, adding measured geomechanics data can more accurately predict which perforation clusters may be stimulated. To test two different fluid systems, the operator designed a “hybrid” (i.e., combination of slickwater and crosslinked gel) treatment for Well 1 and a slickwater treatment for Well 2. Fracture diagnostics reported their effectiveness. Diagnostics included: 1) proppant tracers to evaluate the perforation efficiency, 2) oil-soluble fluid tracers to quantify by-stage production contribution, and 3) water-soluble fluid tracers to assess inter-well communication. Also, the operator had used proppant tracers on the parent well, providing a baseline for results comparison.

Compared to the parent well, the two study wells showed 15-22% higher perforation efficiency. This suggests the engineered design changes created more even proppant distributions. Understanding the geomechanical variability, the operator recognized the engineering required to overcome it. The oil-soluble tracer, although affected by the parent well's depletion profile, showed higher perforation efficiency can increase oil production. Between the two study wells, Well 1 had higher perforation efficiency than Well 2 and it slightly out-produced Well 2. This suggested the hybrid design was likely the more effective design. The hydraulic fracture simulator with near-wellbore geomechanics data predicted perforation efficiency similar to that measured by the proppant tracer. Across both wells’ traced stages, the predicted efficiency and measured efficiency were within 3%. The measurements validated the modeling method.

This paper describes a method of improving completion designs through 1) geomechanics data measured while drilling, 2) modeled perforation cluster efficiency, 3) a measurement of proppant placement effectiveness, and 4) an estimate of stage-by-stage production. For the Powder River Basin operator, this method informed decisions about the next completion design iterations. Operators in any unconventional basin could apply this workflow to approach an optimized completion.

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