Drill sequence optimization is a common challenge faced in the oil and gas industry and yet it cannot be solved efficiently by existing optimization methods due to its unique features and constraints. For many fields, the drill queue is currently designed manually based on engineering heuristics. In this paper, a heuristic priority function is combined with traditional optimizers to boost the optimization efficiency at a lower computational cost to speed up the decision-making process.

The heuristic priority function is constructed to map the individual well properties such as well index and inter-well distance to the well priority values. As the name indicates, wells with higher priority values will be drilled earlier in the queue. The heuristic priority function is a comprehensive metric of inter-well communication & displacement efficiency. For example, injectors with fast support to producers or producers with a better chance to drain the unswept region tend to have high scores. It contains components that weigh the different properties of a well. These components are then optimized during the optimization process to generate the beneficial drill sequences. Embedded with reservoir engineering heuristics, the priority function helps the optimizer focus on exploring scenarios with promising outcomes.

The proposed heuristic priority function, combined with the Genetic Algorithm (GA), has been tested through drill sequence optimization problems for the Brugge field and Olympus field. Optimizations that are directly performed on the drill sequence are employed as reference cases. Different continu- ous/categorical parameterization schemes and various forms of heuristic priority functions are also investigated. Our exploration reveals that the heuristic priority function including well type, constraints, well index, distance to existing wells, and adjacent oil in place yields the best outcome. The proposed approach was able to achieve a better optimization starting point (∼5-18% improvement due to more reasonable drill sequence rather than random guess), a faster convergence rate (results stabilized at 12 vs. 30 iterations), and a lower computational cost (150-250 vs. 1,300 runs to achieve the same NPV) over the reference methods. Similar performance improvement was also observed in another application to a North Sea type reservoir. This demonstrated the general applicability of the proposed method.

The employment of the heuristic priority function improves the efficiency and reliability of drill sequence optimization compared to the traditional methods that directly optimize the sequence. It can be easily embedded in either commercial or research simulators as an independent module. In addition, it is also an automatic process that fits well with iterative optimization algorithms.

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