Well testing is a critical part of any evaluation of a carbonate reservoir discovery. Well-test interpretation in carbonate reservoirs poses additional challenges to those normally faced in the interpretation process in clastic reservoirs. The range of different boundary and crossflow relationships that are generated during well testing by the complex porosity systems are often poorly quantified and understood. The volume over which the pressure response is effective is also a source of great uncertainty and could be critical at the exploration/appraisal stage in any project.

In this paper, which describes a generic modelling approach, we consider carbonate reservoirs which contain three pore sytems (or porosity types): (1) microporosity (end-member) with low permeability and high porosity; (2) macroporosity (end-member) with high permeability and high porosity; and (3) fracture porosity with high permeability and low porosity. These occur in various nested geometrical distributions and varying contrasts. The observed well-test responses (i.e. fracture flow, fracture–matrix interactions) tend to ‘obscure’ one of these systems when compared with theoretical models. Micro- (meso-) and macroporosity can merge into a single matrix porosity system where the permeability contrasts are not great and the correlation lengths short (which can often be the case in carbonates). Macroporosity can also appear in well testing to ‘merge’ with the fracture response, i.e. the contributions of flow in the fractures and (high-permeability) porous matrix are indistinguishable. As a result of the homogenizing attributes of pressure dissipation away from the well, it is not generally possible to see the effects of a ‘triple-porosity’ response (i.e. where three different pore systems have a separate and identifiable signature on the well-test response) and a classical double-porosity response in the well test, despite three different pore systems being present, is possible. The apparent double-porosity response, which might obscure a triple-porosity system, therefore needs careful interpretation in order to attribute the appropriate properties during reservoir characterization in carbonates.

In this work we use ‘geological’ well testing (i.e. well testing through numerical simulation of hypothetical geological models) to systematically analyse the effects of microporosity, macroporosity and fracture porosity on pressure dissipation and their apparent homogenization. While recent studies have proposed that a triple-porosity system should result in a ‘W-shaped’ response, we do not observe this behaviour in our simulations, although we specifically designed our geological models with a triple-porosity system. Instead we observe how macroporosity merges with the fractures or micro- and macroporosity merge, creating a ‘sub-dominant’ matrix or a ‘dominant’ fracture system, respectively and follow a traditional ‘V-shaped’ double-porosity response.

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