An Advisory System For Selecting Drilling Technologies and Methods in Tight Gas Reservoirs

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The supply and demand situation is crucial for the oil and gas industry during the first half of the 21st century. For the future, we will see two trends going in opposite directions: a decline in discoveries of conventional oil and gas reservoirs and an increase in world energy demand. Therefore, the need to develop and produce unconventional oil and gas resources, which encompass coal-bed methane, gas-shale, tight sands and heavy oil, will be of utmost importance in the coming decades. In the past, large-scale production from tight gas reservoirs occurred only in the U.S. and was boosted by both price incentives and well stimulation technology. A conservative study from Rogner (1997) has shown that tight gas sandstone reservoirs would represent at least over 7,000 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas in place worldwide. However, most of the studies such as the ones by the U.S. Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) and Kuuskraa have focused on assessing the technically recoverable gas resources in the U.S. with numbers ranging between 177 Tcf and 379 Tcf. During the past few decades, gas production from tight sands field developments have taken place all around the world from South America (Argentina), Australia, Asia (China, Indonesia), the Russian Federation, Northern Europe (Germany, Norway) and the Middle East (Oman). However, the U.S. remains the region where the most extensive exploration and production for unconventional gas resources occur. In fact, unconventional gas formations accounted for 43% of natural gas production and tight gas sandstones represented 66% of the total of unconventional resources produced in the U.S. in 2006. As compared to a conventional gas well, a tight gas well will have a very low productivity index and a small drainage area. Therefore, to extract the same amount of natural gas out of the reservoir, many more wells will have to be drilled and stimulated to efficiently develop and produce these reservoirs. Thus, the risk involved is much higher than the development of conventional gas resources and the economics of developing most tight gas reservoirs borders on the margin of profitability. To develop tight gas reservoirs, engineers face complex problems because there is no typical tight gas field. In reality, a wide range of geological and reservoir differences exist for these formations. For instance, a tight gas sandstone reservoir can be shallow or deep, low or high pressure, low or high temperature, bearing continuous (blanket) or lenticular shaped bodies, being naturally fractured, single or multi-layered, and holding contaminants such as CO2 and H2S which all combined increase considerably the complexity of how to drill a well. Since the first tight gas wells were drilled in the 1940's in the U.S., a considerable amount of information has been collected and documented within the industry literature. The main objective of this research project is to develop a computer program dedicated to applying the drilling technologies and methods selection for drilling tight gas sandstone formations that have been documented as best practices in the petroleum literature.