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Perforating the Pay zone

Successful well completion ultimately depends on performing the optimal

completion, which begins with the millisecond of perforation. Profitability is strongly
influenced by this critical link between the reservoir and wellbore.
The objective of creating perforation is to create a conductive path between formations and
bore whole after production casing has been set. Perforations form conduits into the
reservoir that not only allow hydrocarbon recovery, but influence it.
We can classify completions practices into three type based on the different design
criteria for perforating a well.
Perforating in a Natural well
Perforating in a stimulated well
Perforating for sand control
They all have different perforating requirements for example In the natural completion (in which perforating is followed directly by production)
many deep shots are most effective.
In stimulated completions {hydraulic fracturing and matrix acidizing}a small angle
between shots is critical to effectively create hydraulic fractures and link perforations
with new pathways in the reservoir.
And in gravel packing, many large-diameter perforations effectively filled with gravel
are used to keep the typically unconsolidated formation from producing sand and
creating damage that would result in large pressure drops during production.

Conveyance systems
The depth of perforation, diameter of perforation opening depends upon the shape charge
as well as standoff distance between casing ID and Gun OD, which in turn depends upon the
conveyance system.

Fig- Three conveyance methods for perforating guns: through-casing and through-tubing,
and tubing-conveyed systems. The through-tubing gun shown is held against the casing
magnetically, others hang free.

Perforating guns
The two broad categories of guns are
1. Exposed and
2. Hollow carrier guns
Exposed guns are run on wireline and have individual shaped charges sealed in
capsules and mounted on a strip, in a tube or along wires. The detonator and detonating
cord are exposed to borehole fluids. These guns are used exclusively through tubing and
leave debris after firing.
They include two designs
1. Expendable, (charges and mounting assembly become debris)
2. Semi expendable (mounting is recovered).
For a given diameter, exposed guns carry a larger, deeper penetrating charge
than a hollow carrier gun. But exposed gun outer diameter is generally not larger than
about 21/2 in. [6 cm], because above this size, the casing, or hollow carrier design, becomes
more practical, allowing use of larger charges, optimal angle between Shots and increased
number of shots per linear footcalled shot density (above, right ).

There are four main types of hollow carrier guns:

i. Scallop guns,
ii. Port plug guns
iii. High shot density guns,
The HEGS High-Efficiency Gun System

Parameters affecting perforation performance

Flow efficiency of a perforated completion and stimulation success are

determined mainly by how well the perforation program takes advantage of the reservoir
The following points are of importance while planning a perforation job
The proper differential pressure between reservoir and wellbore pressure (The
usual preferences for underbalance, meaning wellbore pressure is less than
reservoir pressure at time of perforating).

Shot Geometry- Gun selection, which determines penetration, tunnel length, shot
phasing, shot density and perforation entrance hole diameter.
Reservoir PropertyThe main reservoir property that affects flow efficiency is permeability Anisotropy,
like for example In sandstone, typically from alignment of grains related to their deposition
In carbonates, typically from fractures or vugs.
Shale laminations, natural fractures and wellbore damage, which can cause
permeability anisotropy.
In most formations, vertical permeability is lower than horizontal. In all these cases,
productivity is improved by us of guns with high shot densities.

Natural Fractures
Natural fractures are common in many reservoirs and may provide high
effective permeability even when matrix permeability is low. However, productivity
of perforated completions in fractured reservoirs requires good hydraulic
communication between the perforations and fracture network. To maximize the
chances of intersecting a fracture, penetration length is the highest priority, with
phase angle second. Shot density is less important because fractures form planes
and increasing density does not increase contact with a fracture system. In fractured
formations, a popular gun configuration uses 60 phasing with 5 spf.

Formation Damage and Damaged zone Radius

An important geometric consideration of a perforation is how deeply it penetrates
whether it reaches beyond the zone damaged during drilling or connects with
existing fractures. Formation damage is caused by invasion of mud filtrate and
cement fluid loss into the formation, creating a zone of lower effective permeability
around the wellbore. Extending the perforation beyond the damaged zone may
reduce this skin significantly, enhancing productivity. But even for perforations that
do penetrate farther, the wellbore damage zone reduces the effective tunnel length.

Figure- How a damaged zone near a perforated completion affects productivity with
0 degree phasing and a 4 shot per foot. The influence of lowered effective
permeability in the damaged zone can be combated by perforations that extend into
the virgin formation. In this example there is no crush zone and permeability of the
damage zone is 60 % lower than that of virgin zone

Crushed Zone
The crushed zone is the damaged rock in and around the
perforation tunnel; debris is mainly the liner material of the spent shaped charge,
plus Fragments of cement and rock.
During perforating, a crushed zone of reduced
permeability is created around the perforation. Permeability near the perforation is
reduced because micro fracturing takes places which reduce the larger pores into
smaller pores. The thickness and permeability damage of the crushed zone is
influenced by the type of the shaped charge, Formation type and stress and
underbalance and clean up conditions.

Well Perforating strategy in Natural Completion

The natural completion is often defined as that in which little or no stimulation is
required for production. This approach is usually chosen for reservoirs that are less prone
to damage, have good transmissibility, and are mechanically stable.
For selecting the Perforating gun for creating perforation on these kind of well
primary importance are its depth of penetration and effective shot density.
Depth is important because the deeper the perforation, the greater the effective
wellbore radius; also flow is less likely to be influenced by formation damaged during
drilling. In the context of well productivity, a deep penetrator shoots to a depth 1.5 times
that of the wellbore damage.
Shot density also ranks high because more holes mean more places for
hydrocarbon to enter the wellbore and a greater likelihood that perforations will intersect
productive intervals of an anisotropic reservoir. Under typical flow conditions Perforation
diameter does not adversely affect flow once it exceeds 0.25 in. [6 mm],
After shot density and depth of penetration, most important is phasing because,
when properly chosen, it provides hydrocarbons with the most direct path to the wellbore.

A key consideration in perforation design of natural completions is the

selection of overbalance versus underbalance perforating. Overbalance means the
pressure of wellbore fluids exceeds reservoir pressure at the time of perforating. Under
this condition, wellbore fluids immediately invade the perforation. For this reason, clean

fluids without solids are preferred to prevent plugging of perforations. Cleanup can occur
only when production begins.

Figure Three idealized condition for hole cleaning

Increasingly, wells that have sufficient reservoir pressure to flow to surface
unassisted are completed in underbalance conditions. Underbalance is the trend because of
wider recognition that it provides cleaner perforations, therefore better production.
Underbalance perforating can provide large gains in reservoir productivity. The
question is how much underbalance is appropriate? Excessive Underbalance risks
mechanical damage to the completion or test string by collapsed casing or a packer that
becomes damaged, stuck or unseated. It can also encourage migration of fines within the
reservoir, reducing its permeability. Insufficient underbalance doesnt effectively clean the
perforations. Production may therefore be hindered, mainly by lack of removal of the
crushed zone and, secondarily, by lack of removal of debris.
From an operations viewpoint, underbalance perforating by wireline-conveyed guns
causes a surge that lifts cable and guns. The high flow rate or liquid slugs associated with
this surge can blow the guns and cable up the well. A common limit on underbalance when
perforating via wireline is 700 psi, although this is often higher in tight reservoirs, which
are not capable of delivering a substantial surge.

Phasing Versus Depth of Penetration in through tubing gun system

A long-recognized disadvantage of through-tubing gun systems is their trade-off
between phasing and depth of penetration. We can have either 0 phasing with good
penetration (By sticking the gun on the walls of the casing and thus zero standoff distance),
or improved phasing with less penetration because of smaller shaped charges in throughtubing gun systems.

Figure- The Pivot Gun system in the run-in and deployed positions. The Pivot Gun system gives
the deepest possible penetration when perforating through tubing.
A recent innovation is Pivot Gun system, which delivers casing gun performance
with 180 phasing but can be run through diameters as small as 1.78 in. To do this, the gun
is inserted into the tubing with the charges aligned along the axis of the gun. Once in casing,
a deployment head is used to rotate charges 90 to the firing position. The charges then
reach the full 3.79-in. outer diameter. In case of a misrun, each pivot charge assembly is
designed to be broken, returning the gun to its original 1.69-in. diameter. This allows
retrieval of the gun with deployed charges. Only the deployment head is recovered after
successful perforation; the carrier and fired charges become debris that settles to the
bottom of the well.

Well Perforating strategy in Stimulated Completion

Stimulated completions fall into two categories, acidizing and hydraulic
fracturing Occasionally, the two are combined in an acid-frac, which improves productivity
by using acid to etch surfaces of hydraulically induced fractures, preventing full closure.
Success of stimulation depends largely on how well the perforation allows
delivery of treatment fluids and frac pressures into the reservoir. Because these fluids and
pressure induced fractures are intended to move beyond the perforation. The

parameters, Shot phasing, density and hole diameter are of higher priority than
depth of penetration.
Underbalance Perforating is often used because cleaner perforation tunnels give fluids
more direct paths to the reservoir. In some cases, such as TCP with high shot density guns,
underbalance can be increased to where stimulation is not required to improve
productivity. However, stimulated reservoirs are usually of low permeability, greatly
limiting the surge available to clean the perforations. Further increases in underbalance
may achieve no improvement in cleaning.
When stimulating long intervalsoften considered more than 40 or 50 feet [12 to
15 m]or multiple zones, the perforation strategy may change. Delivering treatment fluid
to all perforations may be difficult. Once fluid enters a zone of higher permeability, a path is
established that prevents stimulation of zones of lower permeability. Here, limited entry
perforating can help. By making a lower number of perforations throughout the zone,
stimulation can be applied more uniformly across zones of varying permeability. Highpermeability zones may take more fluid than low-permeability zones, but because there
are fewer holes, a high enough pressure can be maintained to encourage treatment of lowpermeability zones. After stimulation, perforations are often added to optimally produce
the zone.

Perforating for Hydraulic Fracturing

Perforation plays a key role in the success of hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing has
two main steps
fracture creation by application of pressure
injection of fluid carrying proppant, which holds open the fractures
Once the fracture is created, perforations provide the entrance to the fracture for the
proppant. Perforation diameter must be sufficient to prevent bridging, accumulation of
proppant that blocks the entrance hole, preventing further treatment.

Bridging of Proppant (perforation diameter vs. gravel diameter)

To quantify causes of bridging, Gruesbeck and Collins performed experiments
to determine the minimum allowable ratio of perforation diameter to proppant diameter
for varying proppant concentrations. They found that the perforation must always be at
least twice the proppant diameter. When perforation diameter is at least six times proppant
diameter, proppant concentrations can increase without risk of bridging.

Figure- Importance of selecting perforation entrance hole diameter to prevent bridging of

proppant in the perforations

Importance of Perforation Phasing and Fracture Plane

In general, hydraulic fractures propagate normal to the minimum stress in the
portion of the reservoir undisturbed by the presence of the wellbore. Maximum and
minimum horizontal stresses and vertical stress from overburden describe in-situ stress
conditions in oil and gas reservoirs. Hydraulic fractures initiate and propagate along a
preferred fracture plane (PFP), which is the path of least resistance resulting from
differences in direction and magnitude of formation stresses.
In most cases, stress is greatest in the vertical direction, so the PFP is vertical and lies in the
direction of the next greatest stress, the maximum horizontal stress.
Perforations that are not aligned with the maximum stress tend to produce
complex flow paths near a wellbore during hydraulic fracturing treatments. Fluids and
proppants must exit wellbores, and then turn in the formation to align with the PFP. This
tortuosity causes additional friction and pressure drops that increase pumping
horsepower requirements and limit fracture width, which can result in premature
screenout from proppant bridging and, consequently, less than optimal stimulation

Figure- The importance of shot phase angle to maximizing the communication between
perforations and stimulated fractures. From optimum productivity fracture and perforations
should lie between within 30 degree, 10 degree preferably. This minimizes the fracture
initiation pressure and the length of the channel between the perforation and fracture wings
and increases the likelihood the fracture will initiate along a perforation.
The figure shows that a 0 degree phasing could place the perforation far from the fracture

Figure - Stimulation considerations. Fracture initiation can occur at various discrete point
around a wellbore, if perforations are not aligned with the preferred fracture plane (PFP), or
maximum horizontal stress (SH). These scenarios result in complex flow paths, or tortuosity,
that increases formation-breakdown and fluid-friction pressures during hydraulic fracturing
treatments. Perforations close to the PFP, which is the path of least resistance, minimize or
eliminate near-wellbore restrictions. Properly aligned perforations, perpendicular to the
minimum horizontal stress (Sh), are essential for stimulation optimization and oriented

When perforations are not oriented with the maximum stress, fractures travel from the
tunnel base or tip around casing and cement, or turn out in the formation to align with the
PFP. This realignment creates complex near-wellbore flow paths, including multiple
fracture-initiation points; competing fractures possibly continuing far afield; micro annulus
pathways with pinch-point restrictions; and fracture wings that are curved or poorly
aligned with the wellbore and perforations.
Fracture initiation pressure are higher when the fracture and perforation are
not parallel and do not intersect. If the perforation and minimum stress plane differs by
more than 30 degree the fracture may initiate in plane different from that of perforation.
This indicates the phase angle should be less than 60 degree or less so that perforation is
always within 30 degree of fracture. Perforating guns with small phase angle and high shot
density is required to achieve this optimum angle most effectively.
Buy determining in-situ stress magnitudes and direction we can design
perforating strategies for oriented perforating that target the preferred fracturepropagation direction. An oriented perforating and fracturing strategy minimizes or
eliminates near-wellbore pressure losses by aligning perforations with PFP.

Oriented perforating guns

Perforating for Sand Control

Sand production is a problem in weak or unconsolidated sandstones. Various
factors contribute to sand production, including rock strength, magnitude and direction of
formation stresses, changing flow rates, increasing stress related to pressure drawdown or
reservoir depletion, and water influx over time.
The objective of a sand control completion is to eliminate sand production
while maintaining a production rate that is economic, minimizes reservoir damage and
thus maximizes recovery.
Near the wellbore, sand movement can reduce permeability locally. Produced sand can
erode downhole and surface equipment and its removal can be costly. In sufficient
quantities, sand can plug the completion or surface facilities.
An objective of perforating in these highly productive and often
unconsolidated sands is to reduce the near-wellbore pressure gradient during production.
Perforation geometry can sometimes be optimized to obviate gravel packing.

Screen less completion

Breakdown, or collapse, of perforation tunnels contributes to the onset of
sand production from weakly consolidated reservoirs or formations with large stress
contrasts. Perforations properly aligned with respect to the maximum formation stress are
more stable than those in other orientations around a wellbore
In weakly consolidated formations or competent rock with high contrasts
between vertical and horizontal stresses, formation failure at the perforations causes sand
to be produced. In addition, because reservoir rock must support more overburden as
fluids are produced and pore pressure decreases, perforation tunnels may collapse as a
formation compresses.
Targeting perforations in the most stable directions with minimum stress
contrasts often mitigates sand production by reducing flowing pressure drops, changing
flow configurations and creating more even stress distributions around wellbores.
In vertical wells, perforations can be shot in any direction, but are essentially
horizontal. In high-angle and horizontal wells or vertical wellbores through steeply inclined
formations, random radial perforations can be at various orientations in the target zone,
depending on wellbore inclination and formation dip.
Perforations on the high side of horizontal wells often are more stable and less
likely to break down or become plugged by debris. Perforations can be targeted slightly
away from vertical for optimal shot density and spacing in order to increase productivity,
reduce pressure drop and minimize sand production. For the same reasons, perforations in
vertical wells can be aligned a few degrees away from the PFP.

Figure- Sand-management considerations. In weakly consolidated reservoirs and formations

with large stress contrasts created by complex tectonic environments, perforations that target
a minimum-stress plane in stable sectors around a wellbore help reduce or eliminate
perforation failure and subsequent sand influx. By maximizing perforation-tunnel stability in
a formation, oriented perforating plays a key role in screenless completions that prevent sand

Figure- Screenless completions. When combined with oriented perforating and fracturing
strategies, novel technologies, such as resin-coated and scale-inhibitor-impregnated
proppants (left), and PropNET fibers (right), control proppant flow back and sand
production to provide effective sand prevention without downhole mechanical screens and
gravel packing.
Although sand-control methods are required in many completions,
restricted flow rates may make mechanical screens and gravel packing for sand control
impractical or uneconomical in high productivity wells. In some weakly consolidated
reservoirs and formations with anisotropic stresses, oriented perforating and specialized
screenless technologies can maximize perforation- tunnel stability and reduce or eliminate
Production without restricting well output
By determining in-situ stress magnitudes and directions, completion engineers
target more stable areas of the formation around a well with minimum stress contrast and
avoid less stable sectors with large contrasts between horizontal and vertical stresses.
Smaller diameter perforations, higher shot density, optimal gun phasing and
maximum spacing between holes, and oriented perforating aid in preventing sand
production from weakly consolidated reservoirs.

Gravel Packing
For gravel packing, many large-diameter perforations are preferred to few small
holes. This is because larger holes provide a larger area open to flow and therefore less
pressure drop on production. To achieve this, perforators producing large diameter holes
and high shot density are used. A uniform shot distribution further reduces formation
stress in addition to preserving casing strength.
Because of the high productivity of the reservoir, deep penetration is a lower priority.
Depth of penetration is sufficient if it assures good communication with the reservoir.
To create large, clean perforation tunnels, these wells are typically shot
underbalance with TCP using high shot density guns. The ideal underbalance will
sufficiently clean perforation tunnels without breaking down the formation.
(Sand control could perhaps be provided by maintaining production rates low
enough to prevent collapse of the perforation tunnels. But such a low production rate is
generally uneconomical and is unstable when flow conditions change. Instead, it is usually
stabilized by filling the perforation with gravel)

Relative importance of geometrical factors in perforating for different

type of completion

Figure- Relative importance four main geometrical factors in the three completion types,
Where 1 is greatest and 4 is least.
The optimum perforation design establishes the proper tradeoff of these factors.

Figure-common considerations for perforating natural completions.