Abstract

Extraction of unconventional energy has become a major global industry in the last decade and is driven by changes in technology and increasing demand. One of the key factors for the success of gas extraction is establishing sufficient permeability in otherwise low-porosity and low-permeability formations. Permeability can be established through hydraulic stimulation of deep formations, either through existing fracture networks or by creating new pathways for fluids to flow, and through depressurization of coalbeds by extracting existing subsurface fluids. Geophysical monitoring of hydraulic stimulation and depressurization can be used to determine lateral and vertical constraints on fluid movements in the target lithologies. Such constraints help to optimize production and well placement. In addition, independent verification is critical for social and environmental regulation, to ensure that hydraulic stimulations and depressurization do not interact with overlying aquifers. To date, the primary and most successful geophysical technique has been microseismic, which measures small seismic events associated with rock fractures from arrays of surface and downhole geophones. The microseismic approach has been used widely for many types of unconventional energy-resource development. The magnetotelluric (MT) method is an alternative approach to monitoring hydraulic stimulations and depressurization. In contrast to microseismic, which delineates the locations of rock fractures, MT is sensitive directly to the presence of fluid as measured by the earth's bulk electrical resistivity, which is dependent on permeability. MT is sensitive to the direction of fluid connection, so it might yield important information on how fluids migrate with time. Because subsurface fluids conduct electrical current dependent on the porosity, connectivity, and ionic saturation of the fluid, it follows that the introduction or removal of fluids will change the electrical resistivity of the formation. The physics of the approach is outlined, and the feasibility of the MT method for monitoring unconventional energy-resource development is demonstrated. Two case studies are conducted, one for a shallow (CSG) depressurization and the second for a deep hydraulic stimulation of a shale-gas reservoir.

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