An integrated analysis of multistage hydraulic fracture stimulation done in three horizontal wells in the Marcellus Shale in southeastern West Virginia revealed that nearly half (14 out of 31) of the examined stages initiated horizontal hydraulic fractures. The study was performed in an area characterized by a transitional strike-slip/reverse faulting stress state where the maximum horizontal principal stress (SHmax) is oriented N55°E. The stages that produced horizontal hydraulic fractures were all within the organic-rich Lower Marcellus Shale. Two lines of evidence indicate horizontal hydraulic fracture propagation. The measured least principal stress of those stages was of similar magnitude to the vertical stress (SV), indicating that the vertical stress and microseismic events are limited to a narrow horizontal layer and do not propagate vertically out of the Lower Marcellus Shale. Both lines of argument indicate that the vertical stress is the least principal stress, perhaps due to viscoplastic stress relaxation in the clay- and kerogen-rich Lower Marcellus Shale. In the 17 stages where perforations were placed in the stiffer Onondaga and Cherry Valley formations, the measured least principal stresses were less than the magnitude of SV, indicating that Shmin was the least principal stress. The microseismic data indicate vertical hydraulic fracture propagation, principally upward outside the Marcellus Shale. Significant gas was produced from the two wells with horizontal fractures in the organic-rich Lower Marcellus Shale, perhaps because twice as much proppant was used as in stages characterized by vertical fracture propagation.

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