SPE 110973
Understanding Stress Dependant Permeability of Matrix, Natural Fractures, and Hydraulic Fractures in Carbonate Formations
H.H. Abass, I. Ortiz, M.R. Khan, J.K. Beresky, Saudi Aramco, and L. Sierra, Halliburton
Copyright 2007, Society of Petroleum Engineers
This paper was prepared for presentation at the 2007 SPE Saudi Arabia Technical Symposium held in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, 7–8 May 2007.
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Papers presented at SPE meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper for commercial purposes without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper was presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O. Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836, U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435.
Abstract Most carbonate reservoirs behave as dual porosity- permeability systems in which the rock matrix and both natural and created hydraulic fractures contribute to the hydrocarbon transport in a very complex manner. Understanding the behavior of the permeability of the matrix frame, natural fractures, and created hydraulic fractures, as a function of reservoir depletion, is vital to designing optimum stimulation treatments and to maximize the carbonate formation’s exploitation.
Core samples were selected from a carbonate reservoir and a testing procedure was applied to determine the stress dependant permeability as a function of various combinations of effective stresses. A tensile natural fracture was simulated by splitting a whole core by failing it under tension using a Brazilian test procedure. The stress dependant permeability was evaluated under varied effective stresses simulating a reservoir depletion scenario. A shear fractured core was selected from a given carbonate formation and a stress dependant permeability was established. The tensile fractured core was then propped with a low concentration of small mesh proppants and the permeability of the simulated propped fracture was determined. Using a new reservoir simulator the testing results and selective functions were used to predict the production performance of a carbonate reservoir under the effect of the stress dependant permeability.
The experimental results indicate that the tensile fractures are much less conductive than shear fractures and the shear fractures are less conductive than propped fractures. The concept of effective stress within the rock matrix is totally different than that of natural
fractures; therefore, the effective stress function for both matrix and natural fractures should be separately evaluated to obtain representative functions for any simulation study. The tensile fractures lose conductivity at very early stages of reservoir depletion. Recommendations to manage these tensile fractures for optimum hydrocarbon recovery are suggested.
Practical outputs of this work are: 1) Understand how
natural fractures are controlled to efficiently contribute to well productivity, 2) Quantify the effective stress concept
in the matrix and fracture systems, 3) Provide stress-
dependant correlations for simulation studies.
Introduction Tight carbonate reservoirs behave as dual porosity/permeability systems in which the rock matrix,
natural fractures network and created hydraulic fractures contribute to the hydrocarbon transport in a very complex manner. Permeability loss due to increasing effective stress as a result of reservoir depletion can
result in substantial cumulative recovery loss
. The
permeability of fissured/fractured reservoirs has been postulated to be highly sensitive to changing effective stresses. An increased effective stress, which is the combined effect of stress and pore-pressure, may decrease the reservoir permeability considerably. This permeability sensitivity to changing stresses is most pronounced in tight, over pressured, naturally fractured reservoirs where the apertures of natural fractures are very sensitive to applied closure stress resulted from reservoir depletion.
1
A working model consistent in both fluid flow and
geomechanical considerations is required to link various fluid-rock information (e.g., flow/storage properties, rock mechanical properties, reservoir fluid pressure and stress level) measured by different techniques and to forecast reservoir performance ^{2} .
Identifying natural fractures is incumbent in the economic optimization of fracture stimulation designs. Techniques designed specifically to stimulate natural fractures include low gel loadings, energized fluids and 100 mesh proppant for natural fracture preservation. ^{3}^{-}^{5} Pressure depletion during production will significantly
2
Understanding stress dependant permeability of matrix, natural fractures, and hydraulic fractures in carbonate formation
SPE110973
change the productivity of a reservoir with similar natural fractures ^{6} . Natural fractures impact on production has been studied by various authors whom have proposed that these fissures if kept open can contribute substantially to production. ^{7}^{-}^{1}^{5}
Understanding the hydraulic characteristics of the matrix frame, natural fractures, and created hydraulic fractures as a function of effective confining stress is vital to design optimum stimulation treatments, to predict reservoir performance via reservoir simulation and to
maximize the carbonate formation exploitation. The objective of this study was to investigate permeability reduction characteristics of natural fractures
in highly stressed reservoirs with lowered pore pressure.
An understanding of production from fractured carbonate reservoirs that exhibit permeability reduction with lower bottom hole pressure (BHP) is required. A pore
pressure versus permeability relationship is essential for optimizing field development scenarios, is also required. This matrix-fracture flow transfer function has been used
to simulate fluid flow through fractured porous medium.
A shape factor is usually imbedded within the transfer
function. Considering the work presented in this paper, a new perspective for the transfer function including the shape factor should be considered to include the stress dependant fracture aperture and its permeability, in addition to the stress dependant matrix permeability.
Effective Stress Concept The effective stress concept as introduced by Biot (1941) suggests that pore pressure helps counteract the mechanical stress carried through the grain-to-grain
in
contact. The efficiency of reservoir pressure, _{p} _{,}
r
supporting the earth stresses is measured by the poroelastic factor α; the relationship is:
σ ′ = σ − a p ……………………
……………
(1)
Where σ′ is the effective stress, and σ is the total stress. The poroelastic constant, α, is given by:
α= 1− ^{c}
ma
c
b
, 0 ≤ α ≤ 1 …………………… (2)
With the bulk compressibility, c _{b} , given by:
c
b =
3(1 2 )
−
ν
E
………………………………… (3)
If
compressibility, c _{m}_{a}_{,} is equal to c _{b}_{,} and α becomes zero.
Conversely, with high porosity, the matrix compressibility
is small compared to the bulk compressibility, and α
approaches unity. The poroelastic constant can be evaluated in the laboratory. This study provides a new
the rock matrix
the
rock
has
no
porosity,
technique to indirectly determine this important coefficient. The role of effective stress concept near the wellbore is more pronounced as the reservoir pressure declines rather rapidly approaching the bottom hole flowing pressure. The reservoir pressure as a function of radial distance from a given well is given by:
(
p r
)
=
P
w
+
(
P
e
−
P
w
)
……………….
(4)
For example, let’s assume p _{e} = 8500 psi, p _{w} = 2500 psi, r _{e} = 9000 ft, r _{w} = 0.5 ft, 8500, σ =12000 psi, and α = 0.65. Then the pressure and effect stress gradients around the flowing wellbore for the given example is shown in Figure 1.
Reservoir pressure
effective stress
Distance (ft)
Figure 1: Reservoir pressure and effective stress gradients around a given wellbore.
The greatest pressure drop occurs within a short distance from the wellbore. Therefore the effective stress will be the highest near the wellbore causing permeability reduction additional to that caused by radial flow convergence and skin. Although we assumed α to be constant, it is really a function of pressure. The near wellbore permeability in specific and the reservoir permeability in general changes with pressure depletion thus affecting our well test analysis, single-well reservoir simulation studies, and the reservoir management strategies as a whole. Therefore modeling this mechanism is critical to these petroleum engineering aspects. Changes in fracture permeability caused by changes in effective stress, caused by changes in pore pressure, have been observed at both laboratory and field studies. Although the terminology “Stress-sensitive reservoirs”
SPE 110973
Understanding stress dependant permeability of matrix, natural fractures, and hydraulic fractures in carbonate formation
3
has been widely used in the literature, all reservoirs exhibit stress-sensitive permeability. The effective stress magnitude and resulting deformation which produce permeability changes, differs from one reservoir to another. The effective stress is a function of pore pressure, total stress, and Biot’s coefficient, and the deformation is a function of the rock elastic and plastic characteristics. Therefore the resulting permeability change is a very complex function for an analytical equation and should be experimentally evaluated for a given rock formation at in-situ conditions.
Experimental Simulation An experimental procedure was designed to simulate the reservoir permeability (matrix, natural fractures and induced fractures) reduction as a function of increasing effective stress. Whole core samples were used with dimensions of 4-in. diameter and various lengths (4 - 8 in). The sample is then tested for matrix conductivity. A tensile fracture was created by failing a whole core similar to a Brazilian test. The core would split into two halves. A natural shear fracture from a cored formation was used to study the hydraulic conductivity of a shear fracture as a function of effective stress. A proppant bed is sandwiched between the two splitted halves to form a propped fracture. The sample (intact, with tensile fracture, with a natural shear fracture, or propped fracture) is then positioned inside the rock mechanics loading frame. Then the confining pressure is applied around the sample and a linear flow is established at a given pore pressure to determine the hydraulic conductivity of a given porous medium component (matrix, tensile fracture, shear fracture, and propped fracture).
Stress Dependant Matrix Conductivity Selected samples such that they do not appear to have microfractures were tested to determine the stress- dependant matrix permeability. Various combinations of net effective stresses were applied and the permeability measured at each stress level. Table 1 presents all combinations of applied confining stresses and the pore pressure levels and gradients for a given flow test.
Recalling the definition of effective stress as given in equation 1, it is required to assume a value for the Biot’s coefficient (α). Assuming α is 1, and plotting matrix permeability as a function of effective stress, we obtain Figure 2. Close examination of Figure 2 suggests that for a given effective stress multiple values of permeabilities are measured. This is not an experimental error rather the assumption of α being one is not valid.
The next step is to change α and replot the stress- dependant permeability function until a meaningful trend is obtained. Since α is function of stress, then varying it within the constraints from the first step would produce the stress-dependant permeability presented in Figure 3 with estimated function α (p).
Table 1: applied confining stresses for various flow tests.
C p |
P out |
P in |
P av |
∆P |
Q |
K |
psi |
psi |
psi |
psi |
psi |
mlcc/m |
µD |
2488 |
2004 |
1000 |
1502 |
1004 |
7.644 |
0.313 |
4519 |
4010 |
3000 |
3505 |
1010 |
6.359 |
0.2588 |
4506 |
2013 |
1000 |
1507 |
1013 |
4.224 |
0.1714 |
8555 |
8006 |
7000 |
7503 |
1006 |
5.124 |
0.2093 |
6495 |
4002 |
3000 |
3501 |
1002 |
3.616 |
0.1484 |
6487 |
1999 |
1000 |
1499 |
999 |
3.178 |
0.1308 |
8511 |
4006 |
3000 |
3503 |
1006 |
2.857 |
0.1167 |
8511 |
2005 |
1000 |
1502 |
1005 |
2.595 |
0.1061 |
10012 |
2005 |
1000 |
1502 |
1005 |
2.521 |
0.1032 |
Stress-dependant matrix permeability
0
2,000
4,000
6,000
8,000
10,000
Effective confining stress, psi
Figure 2: Stress-dependant matrix permeability (α =1).
Stress-dependant matrix permeability
0
2,000
4,000
6,000
8,000
10,000
Effective confining stress, psi
Figure 3: Stress-dependant matrix permeability with variable α (p).
Stress dependant tensile fracture conductivity When the reservoir pressure decreases, the elastic displacement in response to the increase in effective stress will cause natural fractures to close leading to a decline in reservoir productivity. The matrix medium feed the natural tensile fractures and the latter conduct the fluids to the wellbore. The decline in conductivity with
4
Understanding stress dependant permeability of matrix, natural fractures, and hydraulic fractures in carbonate formation
SPE110973
increasing effective stress should follow a logical declining rate to support a given production rate.
Figure 4: Simulated tensile fracture; (Top) shows the failed whole core and (Bottom) shows the resulting fracture surface.
The elastic closure response occurs when the net effective horizontal stress increases as a result of reservoir depletion. The elastic response to close the fracture follows Hooke’s law of elasticity and it is controlled by Young’s modulus of the formation:
ε =
e
σ
E
………………………………………………
(5)
The aperture of the fracture will decrease causing a corresponding reduction of fracture conductivity. If we assume 50 ft of the rock perpendicular to the fracture will contribute to fracture closure, then for a Young’s modulus of 3 x 10 ^{6} psi, the decrease in fracture width corresponding to a decrease in reservoir pressure from 7,000 to 4,000 psi will be 0.05 inches. The fracture will not close by 0.05 inches rather the contact points (asperities) will carry the applied stress to prevent fracture closure if they are strong enough to withstand the stress. The compressive strength of the asperities will determine the final fracture permeability. The reduction in conductivity is due to a combined effect of elastic response and compressive failure of the
asperities. Compressive failure also generates rock particles and fines that will further reduce fracture conductivity. The fracture asperities in tensile and shear fractures differ considerably, as the first one is not accompanied with formation shifting while the rock in the latter experience formation shifting which generate a higher conductivity. As explained earlier, a 4-in sample shown in Figure 4 is failed in tension following a Brazilian test. The induced failure plain represents a tensile fracture. The flow testing through the fracture was performed and separated from the total permeability using the following equation:
K A = K A + K A
t
t
f
f
ma
ma
………………
……
(6)
Stress dependant shear fracture conductivity
A |
natural shear fracture from a cored formation is shown |
in |
Figure 5. Conductivity tests through the fracture were |
performed similar to the tests conducted on the tensile-
fracture sample. The natural shear fracture as shown in Figure 6 exhibits the shear fracture and its natural surface.
Figure 5: Natural shear fracture from a retrieved core; (Top) shows the naturally sheared fracture whole core and (Bottom) shows the natural shear fracture surface.
SPE 110973
Understanding stress dependant permeability of matrix, natural fractures, and hydraulic fractures in carbonate formation
5
Stress
Conductivity.
Dependant
Proppant
hydraulic-fracture
Proppant hydraulic fracturing is used to create a conductive fracture in the pay zone to enhance well productivity. Proppant is used to keep a fracture open during the life of the well.
Figure 6: A 100-mesh propped tensile fracture
A tensile-failed sample was propped with 100 mesh
Intermediate Strength Proppant (ISP) (Figure 6), or with
30 mesh Intermediate Strength Resin Coated Proppant (ISRCP) (Figure 7), and flow testing was performed at variable effective confining stress.
The permeability of a one layer 30 mesh RCP decreased
drastically and a lot of fines were generated (Figure 7)
at an effective closure of 4,000 psi. This is an important
criterion to consider when deciding on the type of
proppant to be used in the proppant fracturing treatment
of a given reservoir.
Figure 8 shows the stress-dependant permeability of the porous media components considered in this study. The best reservoir management will be produced if the conductivity of all components declines at the same rate assuming they start at similar original values. Figure 9 shows the stress dependant conductivity for the same porous media components.
Normalized fracture conductivity defined as a percentage of the initial conductivity is presented in Figure 10. A 100-mesh proppant fracture will sustain well productivity better than a 30-mesh RCP which crushed at a closure stress of 6500 psi effective stress. The 30-mesh proppant conductivity becomes less than the ISP 100-mesh conductivity when
Figure 7: A tensile fracture propped with 30-mesh proppant (top), and the re-sieved meshes observed after the test (bottom).
the effective stress becomes more than 7000 psi. Although this high stress may not occur deep in the reservoir, near the wellbore it may be very well applicable. Low concentrations of proppant (Waterfracs) have been very successful in stimulating tight gas reservoirs ^{1}^{7}^{,}^{1}^{8} . A WaterFrac is a proppant fracturing; however, proppant concentration used is very low ranging from 0.5 to 2 Ib/gal. Therefore, it is possible that a 100-mesh proppant perform better that a 30 mesh resin-coated proppant if the later is exposed to crushing stress as fines will be generated from the resin coat resducing fracture conductivity below that of a 100 mesh proppant.
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Understanding stress dependant permeability of matrix, natural fractures, and hydraulic fractures in carbonate formation
SPE110973
Figure 8: Permeability of various porous media components associated with carbonate formation.
Observing Figure 10, it be concluded that filling natural fractures (tensile and shear) will improve productivity of the given stress-sensitive reservoir under study. This is not necessarily true in non-stressed reservoirs as it is shown when the effective stress < 2000 psi, the shear fracture is providing better conductivity than a 100 mesh ISP propped fracture.
Figure 9: Conductivity of various porous media components associated with carbonate formation.
Figure 10 suggests that the tensile and shear fractures losses more than 70% of its conductivity when the pore pressure decreases by 1000 psi. This confirms rapid decline in productivity in naturally fractured reservoirs during early production. Propped fractures decline rather much slower than natural fractures.
Figure 10: Normalized conductivity of various porous media components associated with carbonate formation.
Mathematical Simulation A mathematical model ^{1}^{6} was used to achieve two objectives; 1) Compare stress-dependant permeability vs. constant permeability, and 2) Compare the effect of 100-mesh propped, a tensile, and shear hydraulic fractures. The reservoir properties used in all simulation cases were; a gas reservoir with a net pay of 46 feet, reservoir pressure of 7620 psi, permeability is 0.5 md at initial conditions and for fractured-well simulations; the fracture is 150 feet long. The stress-dependant permeabilities for all conductive components presented above were used in the simulations. Two cases were considered in the simulation runs; a single porosity reservoir with constant matrix permeability and the other case was considering the stress-dependant matrix permeability. Figure 11 shows the results from these two cases labeled as “w/o stress” and “w/stress”. In the “w/o stress” case, the initial matrix permeability was kept constant as the reservoir pressure decreases, while in the “w/stress” case the initial matrix permeability decreases as the reservoir pressure decreases following the matrix function presented in Figure 11. The stress effect is responsible for 50% loss of the PI, which can be even more at higher production rate.
Figure 11: PI as a function of time for single porosity model with and without the effect of stress on matrix permeability.
SPE 110973
Understanding stress dependant permeability of matrix, natural fractures, and hydraulic fractures in carbonate formation
7
Additional three simulation runs were made for hydraulically fractured wells. The hydraulic fractures considered followed the same characteristics of the tensile, shear, and 100 mesh ISP propped fractures. The initial conductivities of these fractures were kept constant as the reservoir pressure decreases. The results, represented by the well productivity index (PI) behavior, for all fractured-well cases are presented in Figure 12. The results show the benefit of the tensile, shear and 100 mesh ISP propped fractures compared to a single porosity non-fractured well. The 100-mesh hydraulic fracture performed better than the hydraulic fracture that has natural shear fracture conductivity or the hydraulic fracture that has the tensile fracture conductivity. This observation suggest that filling the existing natural tensile and shear fractures with 100 mesh ISP proppant will lead to more production than depleting the reservoir as a naturally fractured reservoir. This conclusion does not carry a general consensus rather it depends on the stress level and mechanical characteristics of the reservoir formation. In shallow reservoirs, the natural fractures may behave as infinite conductivity fractures and filling them with 100-mesh proppant will only reduce their contribution to the overall reservoir flow efficiency.
Time, days
Figure 12: PI performance for various scenarios without the effect of stress.
Considering the stress effect all the simulated cases change drastically, as it is showed in Figure 13. The effect of the tensile fracture stands only for a shorter time due mainly to the high effect of the stress. This is a scenario of injecting water only to create tensile fracture; however this type of fractures will close upon producing the reservoir and the effective stress increases. The effect of shear fracture stands for a longer time for the simulated case. The effect of the 100 mesh ISP propped fracture is superior to all other cases with the effect of stress dependant permeabilities.
Time (days)
Figure 13: PI for various completion scenarios with stress effect .
Conclusions
1. This study has uncovered an important phenomenon related to the stress dependant poroelastic effect during production of naturally fractured reservoirs. The poroelastic coefficient in the matrix domain is considerably different than that of the natural fractures system. A new laboratory procedure to determine the two different poroelastic functions is presented. These functions should be implemented in a dual porosity/dual permeability reservoir simulation study to obtain reasonable prediction of reservoir performance.
2. In stressed reservoirs or stress-sensitive reservoirs where permeability loss is substantial, keeping the natural fractures open should be the primary objective. Propping these fractures with small proppant mesh at early time should be considered as an effective reservoir management strategy for these reservoirs.
3. Many wells in naturally fractured reservoirs are initially good producers but after a short period of time a sharp decline in productions is observed. This is frequently interpreted as a “flush production” which is a rapid drainage of the fracture network, whereas fluid bleed-off from the lower permeability matrix rock occurs at much lower rates. This study suggests a new explanation related to unsynchronized permeability reduction rate in the matrix and fissures media. Effort to synchronize the permeability decline rates of the matrix and fractures systems should be carefully designed.
4. The contribution of matrix, tensile fractures and shear fractures to the overall reservoir productivity follow different stress-dependant permeability functions. The permeability functions of these porous components should be carefully determined for any reservoir simulation study.
5. The stress-dependant proppant conductivity should be evaluated in these highly stressed reservoirs before any proppant fracturing is considered as a stimulation treatment. A crushed large size proppant may perform poorer than 100-mesh proppant.
6. In low permeability gas reservoirs, the abnormal production lost is normally attributed to the
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Understanding stress dependant permeability of matrix, natural fractures, and hydraulic fractures in carbonate formation
SPE110973
condensate banking phenomenon; however this paper offers another alternative explanation related to lost permeability.
7. This study provides an explination of why slickwater hydraulic fractures work in certain reservoirs. The tensile fractures in low stress reservoirs may continue to contribute to the flow system before their permeability becomes negligible. Additionally the waterfrac may perform better than the natural fractures which are assumed to have infinite conductivity.
Nomenclature
A : Fracture area
E : Young’s modulus
K : Bulk modulus, psi
K
P
P
PI : Productivity Index, Mscf/d/psi
∆P : Pressure drawdown (P _{e} -P _{w} ), psi
r _{e}
r _{w}
∆w
development
: Permeability, md : External pressure, psi : Wellbore pressure, psi
_{e}
_{w}
: External radius, inch : Wellbore radius, inch
: Fracture displacement during width
α
ε _{e}
σ ′
σ
: Biot’s coefficient : Displacement due to elastic response
: Effective grain-to-grain stress.
t : Total minimum horizontal stress
Subscript
t |
: total |
ma |
: matrix |
f |
: fracture |
b |
: bulk |
e |
: external |
e |
: elastic |
w |
: well |
References
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th
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