Detection and quantification of rock physics properties for improved hydraulic fracturing in hydrocarbon-bearing shales




Montaut, Antoine Marc Marie

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Horizontal drilling and hydraulic stimulation make hydrocarbon production from organic-rich shales economically viable. Identification of suitable zones to drill a horizontal well and to initiate or contain hydraulic fractures requires detection and quantification of many factors, including elastic mechanical properties. Elastic behavior of rocks is affected by rock composition and fabric, pore pressure, confining stress, and other factors. Rock fabric refers to the arrangement of the rock’s solid and fluid constituents. The objective of this thesis is to quantify rock fabric properties of hydrocarbon-bearing shales affecting elastic properties, including load-bearing matrix, anisotropic cracks, and shape of rock components. Once rock fabric is validated with sonic logs, results can be used to identify suitable zones to drill a horizontal well, initiate hydraulic stimulation, and contain fracture propagation. We develop a method to estimate elastic properties based on rock composition. The differential effective medium (DEM) theory is invoked to model rock elastic properties with a load-bearing component in which remaining minerals and pores are added as spheres or ellipsoids. The method can be combined with the self-consistent approximation (SCA) to construct a load-bearing matrix made of two solid phases. Anisotropic inclusions are added via Hudson’s model. Subsequently, Gassmann’s theory is invoked to saturate the rock with fluids and determine low-frequency elastic properties for comparison to sonic logs. Rock fabric properties remain constant in a vertically homogeneous formation. In vertically heterogeneous strata, the depth interval of interest is divided into rock types, based on rock solid composition, and each rock type is associated with a specific fabric. Quantification of rock fabric properties is a non-unique process, and one should take into account as much petrophysical and geological information as possible to ensure physically viable results. Our simulation and interpretation method is implemented in two wells in both the Haynesville and Barnett shales. Averages of relative errors between estimated velocities and sonic logs are less than 4% in the four wells. Simulations in the Haynesville shale are isotropic, and therefore indicate that rock fabric may not be the main cause of mechanical anisotropy in cases where such behavior is inferred from field data. Rock fabric properties are constant with depth in both wells. Consequently, identification of suitable zones to drill a horizontal well or to contain fracture propagation is not based on rock fabric; it is deduced from Young’s modulus. Simulated Poisson’s ratio is shown to be more sensitive to errors in velocities than Young’s modulus and is therefore not used in the interpretation. Favorable depth intervals for gas production exhibit sizeable volumes of gas and organic content. In the Barnett shale, the two wells exhibit different rock fabrics. Such a behavior indicates that the formation is laterally heterogeneous. Rock physics models should therefore be extrapolated from one well to another with caution. Simulations assume anisotropic elastic behavior and suggest the presence of compliant horizontal pores in one case. Natural vertical fractures are observed on electric image logs in the remaining case and are modeled with Hudson’s theory. This behavior suggests that rock fabric causes mechanical anisotropy in the formation. Heterogeneity of the Barnett shale rock fabric is inferred from the necessary use of rock typing to adequately reproduce sonic logs in both wells. Intervals with large porosity and high gas saturation identify suitable zones to perform hydraulic stimulation. Among such zones, rock types that exhibit stiff load-bearing matrices (comprising mostly calcite, for example) indicate suitable depths to drill horizontal wells or to contain hydraulic fractures. Intervals with dense layering of different rock types are unsuitable for fracture propagation and should be avoided during hydraulic-fracturing operations.



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