Integrated Fracturing, Geomechanics and Reservoir Simulation: Using a Fit-for-Purpose Tool

Mukul Sharma
Friday, December 4, 2020, 12pm - 1pm

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Reservoir simulators and hydraulic fracturing simulators have historically had two things in common: (a) one model does not talk to the other, and (b) they are complicated, so in many companies they remain the domain of a few subject matter experts (SMEs). This talk reports on recent advances in integrating models for geomechanics, fracture propagation and compositional reservoir simulation with models for multi-phase fluid flow in the wellbore. This integration allows us to address important problems ranging from fracture design, completion design, refracturing, infill wells, choke management, induced seismicity, thermal fracturing, fracture containment, fracture diagnostics, IOR and of course classical reservoir simulation problems such as waterflooding (with growing injection induced fractures). These important applications can only be addressed with the full integration of 3-D geomechanics, fracture propagation and fluid flow simulations.

The key to the widespread use of such powerful and general models is to allow users to run these models in a time frame that allows operational decisions to be made and to ensure that they are accessible to reservoir, completion and production engineers as well as SMEs. We refer to these as “fit-for-purpose” simulations. The model must allow a user to only turn on features of the model that are deemed essential to the results. For example, a completion engineer designing a completion may not need to simulate the reservoir or fracture in detail when designing a set of extreme limited entry, tapered perforation clusters. As each additional feature (such as thermal effects, geomechanics, compositional effects) are turned on, the simulation becomes more complex and computationally demanding. A user must be able to select model features that are essential to their problem. This allows the model to be used for a wide variety of problems with different degrees of complexity by users with a wide range of expertise.

Examples are provided to show how such a model has been used for perforation design, fracture design, choke management, waterflooding, huff-n-puff IOR and other applications. It is shown that the interplay of geomechanics, flow and fractures can play a dominant role in reservoir performance and is essential for predicting well and reservoir performance. Finally, the need for further research, model limitations and some missing parts of the puzzle are highlighted.

Mukul M. Sharma is Professor and holds the “Tex” Moncrief Chair in the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin where he has been for the past 35 years. He served as Chairman of the Department from 2001 to 2005. His current research interests include hydraulic fracturing, oilfield water management, formation damage and improved oil recovery. He has published more than 450 journal articles and conference proceedings and has 21 patents. He founded Austin Geotech Services an E&P consulting company in 1996. He also co-founded Layline Petroleum in 2006 (which had very successful exit in 2013) and Navidad Energy in 2017. Sharma has a bachelor of technology in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology and an MS and PhD in chemical and petroleum engineering from the University of Southern California.

Among his many awards, Dr. Sharma is a member of the US National Academy of Engineering and an Honorary Member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE). He is the recipient of the 2017 John Franklin Carll Award and the 2009 Lucas Gold Medal, SPE’s highest technical awards. He has also received the 2004 SPE Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award, the 2002 Lester C. Uren Award and the 1998 SPE Formation Evaluation Award. He served as an SPE Distinguished Lecturer in 2002, has served on the Editorial Boards of many journals, and taught and consulted for industry worldwide.