Geomechanics in Unconventional Fracturing—is it the most difficult problem we’ve ever faced?

For the past unconventional developments, attention has been largely focused on surface, operational considerations – with remarkable results. The industrial engineering results have created huge efficiency improvements, which has resulted in achievements that would have been unbelievable just 5 years ago. This has allowed development to move forward despite financial obstacles. 

With that said, these achievements may have neared a peak. If this is the case, attention must again be focused on the sub-surface to gain further improvements: what is the optimum proppant volume? Is more-and-more always better-and-better? This challenge for future improvements represents (quite possibly) the most difficult geotechnical challenge ever faced.

Oct 29th, 2018
Content Dam Ogj Sponsors O T Premier X70

For the past unconventional developments, attention has been largely focused on surface, operational considerations – with remarkable results. The industrial engineering results have created huge efficiency improvements, which has resulted in achievements that would have been unbelievable just 5 years ago. This has allowed development to move forward despite financial obstacles.

With that said, these achievements may have neared a peak. If this is the case, attention must again be focused on the sub-surface to gain further improvements: what is the optimum proppant volume? Is more-and-more always better-and-better? This challenge for future improvements represents (quite possibly) the most difficult geotechnical challenge ever faced.

A few of these challenges may include:

  • Thin laminations – A thin high stress layer is generally a better fracture barrier than a thicker, lower stress layer. Does this extend to layer thicknesses on the order of “cm”?
  • Layers with higher stiffness create reduced with. How thick must such a layer be to form a “pinch point” and affect proppant settling?
  • Fracture Interference – Theory says that more stress interference should occur as fractures get closer and closer, but field evidence says shorter stages with more clusters may perform better. Is there a contradiction here?
  • “Frac Hits” – What is the effect of depletion and fracturing from multiple-wells on fracture propagation and asymmetry?

This presentation, sponsored by Premier Oilfield Group and presented by awarded author Michael B. Smith, will concentrate on the first question above—the effect of thin laminations on fracture propagation. Smith will be discussing the effect on material properties (specifically modulus) on fracture width profiles.

Smith has more than 40 years of experience in rock mechanics, well completions, and hydraulic fracturing in 46 countries around the world. He is the co-developer of the framework for fracturing pressure analysis and author of Hydraulic Fracturing. He is a SPE Distinguished Lecturer, a SPE Lester C. Uren Award recipient, and a SPE Legend of Fracturing recipient for his contributions to hydraulic fracturing technology.

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