The effectiveness of hydraulic-fracturing completions in a tight-oil play is investigated by detailed interpretation of microseismicity. The microseismic programs were acquired in the Cretaceous Cardium light oil sandstone reservoirs in Alberta, Canada. Events with magnitudes between 3.2 and 1.4 are located by downhole monitor wells to a maximum distance of 525 m, enabling inference of the fracture wing length, height, and azimuth based on event distribution. The fracture ports, one per stage, were located in an open-hole configuration that used external packers for zonal isolation. During completions, the ports were opened with ball-actuated frac sleeves. Event distributions indicated that, in some cases, fractures grew preferentially away from the Rocky Mountain deformation front. This inferred that fracture asymmetry is independent of the position of the monitoring array, indicating that it cannot be ascribed to observation bias and suggesting that the direction of fracture growth was dominantly influenced by the preexisting stress conditions in the reservoir. The distribution of microseismicity further indicates that isolated event clusters occur 30–50 m above the reservoir. These out-of-zone events are interpreted to have occurred on unpropped fractures. In comparison with gelled oil or foamed water, slickwater fracturing fluids are shown to produce more diffuse and scattered microseismic expression accompanied by better cumulative oil production. Taken together, the results of these studies indicate that the use of slickwater fracturing fluid, along with the reduced stage spacing and tighter interwell spacing, is expected to lead to higher initial production as well as higher estimated ultimate recovery.

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