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Refracturing: Technology and Reservoir

Understanding are Giving New Life to
Depleted Unconventional Assets
Sherif Foda, Production Group President, Schlumberger

The unconventional boom that has ventional resource development to the rienced improved production from both
swept across North America over the next level: refracturing. While refractur- the infill and depleted wells.
past decade is a testament to how game- ing of the Barnett Shale generated inter- In 2014, Schlumberger assembled a
changing technology combined with est in 2008–2009, the development of team of experienced geoscientists from
expanded knowledge and understand- new diversion technologies is enabling the hydraulic fracturing and reservoir
ing has transformed the paradigm of oil and gas operators to once again con- subsurface disciplines to determine the
hydrocarbon production. Ongoing devel- sider refracturing as an economic alter- criteria for developing a workflow to
opment of horizontal drilling and com- native to drilling new wells. diagnose potential well candidates for
pletion technologies and sophisticated While producers are still work- refracturing. The team formed a con-
downhole logging tools have been instru- ing to understand the mechanisms of sortium with several of the most active
mental in increasing efficiency to make unconventional production and how operators in the oil- and liquids-rich
oil and gas shale plays economically via- wells behave and flow, they do have a Eagle Ford Shale. Members of the con-
ble. Today, more than 70,000 horizontal much better understanding of the sub- sortium are providing the necessary data
wells are producing from unconventional surface than they did in the early days to define wells, most of them 1 to 4 years
resource plays with massive, multistage of a play as more wells have been drilled old, which would be good refracturing
fracturing campaigns. and data collected from these wells are candidates in the play. By joining forc-
Over the years, however, operators pieced together. At the same time, frac- es in this unique study, the consortium
have learned that reservoir heterogene- ture models for determining optimum members are creating a critical mass of
ity and low-permeability rock present treatment designs and technologies that data, with the results of the well studies
challenges that can limit the potential can divert treatments to new unstimu- shared among the companies. This has
of unconventional development. Despite lated rock are now available and proven. facilitated accelerated learnings and best
the fast pace of technological advances, This enhanced reservoir under- practices in well candidate selection and
production log analyses reveal that con- standing and access to technology are refracturing design.
ventional completion designs, including incentivizing operators to take a second The overriding objective of the proj-
the practice of placing perforation clus- look at refracturing as a feasible and ect is to gain back more than 60% of the
ters evenly along the lateral, may not cost-effective alternative to drilling new IP while spending significantly less than
be the best approach to production in wells. By reinvigorating existing, often 40% of the IP costs. To achieve this, the
these plays. Production logs show that depleted, assets, companies can enhance refracture treatment must be moved out
on average, 40% of the perforation clus- hydrocarbon recovery while boosting of the existing fracture network and into
ters in a given lateral are not contributing cash flows. new, unstimulated rock while preventing
to production. the refracturing process from interfering
Unconventional wells also exhibit A Unique Consortium with offset wells. Early results from opti-
rapid declines from initial production Refracturing also provides the added mized refracturing treatments on candi-
(IP) rates, sometimes by as much as 60% benefit of protecting the depleted wells date wells have shown that the process
to 80% during the first year of opera- from the negative effects associated with can provide a timely boost in cash flow
tion. If early IP rates are not managed, fracture hits when drilling offset wells. from existing well inventories by enhanc-
or choked, properly, subsequent steep Companies historically have encountered ing recovery of hydrocarbons.
declines can cause long-term damage to production losses from “parent wells” Among the new technologies driv-
the fracture conductivity. when an infill fracture interferes with the ing these results is an engineered stim-
As the industry faces new challenges depleted well. By refracturing the deplet- ulation design software that integrates
in the wake of low commodity prices and ed wells before fracturing the infill well, geological, geophysical, petrophysi-
a slowdown in drilling, it is eyeing a sig- operators have successfully prevented cal, geomechanical, and microseismic
nificant new opportunity to take uncon- these negative impacts and actually expe- data from the reservoir into models that
Copyright 2015, Society of Petroleum Engineers. Reprinted from the Journal of Petroleum Technology with permission.
76 JPT • JULY 2015

Sequenced Refracturing Treating Plot

enable operators to history-match IP

■ Treating Pressure ■ Proppant Concentration ■ Slurry Rate
rates in order to select viable refractur-
10,000 80 10 ing candidates and develop an optimized
refracturing design.
9,000 9
70 Advances in fracturing services that
8,000 8
have made refracturing of long hori-
60 zontal completions economically feasi-
7,000 7 ble are key components of the refrac-
turing strategy. The new technologies

Concentration (ppa)
Pressure (psi)

6,000 6

Rate (bbl/min)
enable the temporary plugging of exist-
ing fractures, effectively diverting prop-
5,000 40 5
pant and fluid to new, unstimulated rock
4,000 4 during a continuous refracturing treat-
30 ment pumped from the surface (Fig. 1).
3,000 3 Application of the diversion technology
20 for refracturing has resulted in produc-
2,000 2 tion returns of more than 60% over IP
10 rates (Fig. 2).
1,000 1

0 0 0 Increasing Production,
15:00:00 17:00:00 19:00:00 21:00:00 23:00:00
Flow Pressures
Time (hh:mm:ss) Five operators in the consortium have
Fig. 1—Refracturing stages and composite pills are pumped in sequence to committed to refracturing a total of 15
promote diversion of fluid and proppant to rock bearing higher pressures and wells in the Eagle Ford, where more than
production potential. Increasing treating pressure and other measurements are
400 wells are estimated to have very
combined to confirm occurrence of diversion.
high refracturing potential. Another 800
Eagle Ford Refracturing Consortium wells in the play are considered to have
good potential.
■ Production Increase, B/D ■ % of Original Production, B1 month A recent refracturing treatment in
the Eagle Ford boosted oil production
500 90
85 sevenfold, from 80 B/D to 550 B/D, bring-
76 ing the well up to 76% of the IP rate. Well-
head flow pressure also increased from
Production Regain vs. Original Production (%)

400 line pressure of 120 psi to 5,800 psi, sug-

gesting the refracturing design had been
effective in unlocking new, unproduced
Production Increase (B/D)

56 60
resources. Post-fracture declines appear
300 48
to be similar or somewhat better than ini-
39 tial declines.
31 40
Modeling the long-term impact of
200 the refracturing operations using res-
30 ervoir simulation techniques indicates
that a properly executed treatment on
20 a suitable well candidate can increase
overall production by at least 20%. This
10 improvement represents an increase
in estimated ultimate recovery from
0 0 a given well, and ultimately raises the
Well A Well B Well C Well D Well E Well F
value of the life of maturing unconven-
tional assets in North America. Eco-
Fig. 2—Wells are listed in chronological order. Production gain is calculated
using an average production rate 30 days before and after the refracturing.
nomic models indicate rates of returns
Regain is calculated with an average production rate 30 days after refracturing could exceed 30%, provided that can-
as a percentage of the best monthly production during initial production. didate wells are correctly identified and

78 JPT • JULY 2015

workflows are applied to optimize the for the oil and gas industry to create a and techniques ensuring a full coverage
execution of the refracturing design new business model with a risk-sharing of the lateral stimulation, such as refrac-
and treatment. mechanism that can change the eco- turing from heel to toe, to significantly
As the oil and gas industry looks nomics of unconventional fields. The increase the productivity of the wells,
ahead to the next decade of uncon- industry needs to continue enhancing thus lowering the total cost per barrel of
ventional development, refracturing the development of those technologies oil equivalent. JPT
offers significant potential for enhanc-
ing recovery and optimizing field eco-
nomics. New technologies combined
with greater understanding of the sub- Sherif Foda is president of the Production Group at Schlumberger.
surface are paving the way for revi- Before assuming his current role in 2013, he has held various
talizing mature and depleted assets, management positions in Schlumberger, including president for
enabling operators to increase pro- Europe & Africa; vice president and managing director for Saudi
duction from existing well invento- Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain; vice president for Well Intervention;
ries and raising the overall value of vice president for Well Services for Europe, Caspian, and Africa; and
unconventional reservoirs. GeoMarket manager for Oman. Earlier in his Schlumberger career,
Foda held operations management, marketing, and engineering
Going forward, collaboration
positions in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Yemen, Arabian Gulf countries, United
between service companies and opera- States, Germany, and Eastern European countries. He began his career with
tors in combining geosciences, a pro- Schlumberger in 1993 in well services operations in the Red Sea in Egypt. Before
cess for identifying well candidates for joining Schlumberger, Foda worked in the information technology industry for 2 years.
refracturing, and innovative technolo- Foda holds a BS degree in electronics engineering and automatic control from Ain
gy present a meaningful opportunity Shams University in Cairo.

JPT • JULY 2015 79