Pore-to-regional-scale Integrated Characterization Workflow for Unconventional Gas Shales
Published:January 01, 2012
Roger M. Slatt, Paul R. Philp, Younane Abousleiman, Prerna Singh, Roderick Perez, Romina Portas, Kurt J. Marfurt, Steven Madrid-Arroyo, Neal O’Brien, Eric Eslinger, Elizabeth T. Baruch, 2012. "Pore-to-regional-scale Integrated Characterization Workflow for Unconventional Gas Shales", Shale Reservoirs—Giant Resources for the 21st Century, J. A. Breyer
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Based on recent studies of Barnett and Woodford gas shales in Texas and Oklahoma, a systematic characterization workflow has been developed that incorporates lithostratigraphy and sequence stratigraphy, geochemistry, petrophysics, geomechanics, well log, and three-dimensional (3-D) seismic analysis. The workflow encompasses a variety of analytical techniques at a variety of geologic scales. It is designed as an aid in identifying the potentially best reservoir, source, and seal facies for targeted horizontal drilling. Not all of the techniques discussed in this chapter have yet been perfected, and cautionary notes are provided where appropriate.
Rock characterization includes (1) lithofacies identification from core based on fabric and mineralogic analyses (and chemical if possible); (2) scanning electron microscopy to identify nanofabric and microfabric, potential gas migration pathways, and porosity types/distribution; (3) determination of lithofacies stacking patterns; (4) geochemical analysis for source rock potential and for paleoenvironmental indicators; and (5) geomechanical properties for determining the fracture potential of lithofacies.
Well-log characterization includes (1) core-to-log calibration that is particularly critical with these finely laminated rocks; (2) calibration of lithofacies and lithofacies stacking patterns to well-log motifs (referred to as gamma-ray patterns or GRPs in this chapter); (3) identification and regional to local mapping of lithofacies and GRPs from uncored vertical wells; (4) relating lithofacies to petrophysical, geochemical, and geomechanical properties and mapping these properties.
Three-dimensional seismic characterization includes (1) structural and stratigraphic mapping using seismic attributes, (2) calibrating seismic characteristics to lithofacies and GRPs for seismic mapping purposes, and (3) determining and mapping petrophysical properties using seismic inversion modeling.
Integrating these techniques into a 3-D geocellular model allows for documenting and understanding the fine-scale stratigraphy of shales and provides an aid to improved horizontal well placement. Although the workflow presented in this chapter was developed using only two productive gas shales, we consider it to be more generically applicable.
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Shale Reservoirs—Giant Resources for the 21st Century
In the early 1970s, most exploration geologists in the United States considered subeconomic or marginally economic petroleum resources such as coalbed methane, shale gas, and tight-gas sands as unconventional resources (Law and Curtis, 2002). Tax incentives and federally funded research beginning in the late 1970s helped make these resources economically viable in the last two decades of the 20th century. Economics aside, two important geologic attributes characterize most unconventional petroleum resources (Law and Curtis, 2002). Conventional petroleum systems are buoyancy-driven accumulations found in structural or stratigraphic traps, whereas most unconventional systems exist independent of a water column and are generally not found in structural or stratigraphic traps.
Shale reservoirs are not new. The first commercial hydrocarbon production in the United States was from a well drilled in 1821 in a shale gas reservoir. By 2000, more than 28,000 wells had been drilled in shale gas reservoirs. Rising gas prices and technological advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing associated with the development of the Barnett Shale led to a boom in shale gas development in the early years of the 21st century. Now the exploitation of shale reservoirs is turning to natural gas liquids, condensate, and oil. Far from being isotropic and homogeneous, as once naively envisioned, shale reservoirs are complexly layered accumulations of fine-grained sediment. Geologic variation on scales ranging from that of stratal architecture to that of lamination within individual beds must be understood in order to locate and exploid areas of higher production within shale reservoirs. Shale reservoirs remain largely geologic plays - notmerely lease plays or strictly engineering plays made possible by improvements in drilling and completion technology.