The geology of geomechanics: petroleum geomechanical engineering in field development planning
The application of geomechanics to oil and gas field development leads to significant improvements in the economic performance of the asset. The geomechanical issues that affect field development start at the exploration stage and continue to affect appraisal and development decisions all the way through to field abandonment. Field developments now use improved static reservoir characterization, which includes both the mechanical properties of the field and the initial stress distribution over the field, along with numerical reservoir modelling to assess the dynamic stress evolution that accompanies oil and gas production, or fluid injection, into the reservoirs.
Characterizing large volumes of rock in the subsurface for geomechanical analysis is accompanied by uncertainty resulting from the low core sampling rates of around 1 part per trillion (ppt) for geomechanical properties and due to the remote geophysical and petrophysical techniques used to construct field models. However, some uncertainties also result from theoretical simplifications used to describe the geomechanical behaviour of the geology.
This paper provides a brief overview of geomechanical engineering applied to petroleum field developments. Select case studies are used to highlight how detailed geological knowledge improves the geomechanical characterization and analysis of field developments. The first case study investigates the stress regimes present in active fault systems and re-evaluates the industry’s interpretation of Andersonian stress states of faulting. The second case study discusses how the stress magnitudes and, potentially, stress regimes can change as a result of production and pore pressure depletion in an oil or gas field. The last case study addresses the geomechanical characterization of reservoirs, showing how subtle changes in geological processes are manifested in significant variations in strength. The studies presented here illustrate how the timely application of petroleum geomechanical engineering can significantly enhance field development, including drilling performance, infill drilling, completion design, production and recovery.