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SPE 106051

Hydraulic Fracturing Down Under


J.M. McGowen, Halliburton, and J.V. Gilbert and E. Samari, Santos Ltd.

Copyright 2007, Society of Petroleum Engineers

Darwin

This paper was prepared for presentation at the 2007 SPE Hydraulic Fracturing Technology
Conference held in College Station, Texas, U.S.A., 2931 January 2007.
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of
information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as
presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to
correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any
position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Papers presented at
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acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper was presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O.
Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836, U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435.

Abstract
This paper reviews the fracturing history in the Cooper Basin
and summarizes the results of over 650 fracturing treatments
characterised by high tectonic stresses, high fracturing
pressures, high reservoir temperatures, and stacked reservoir
lithologies of sands, shales, and coals. Initial treatments
targeted multiple moderately high permeability (1-10 md)
formations, while multi-staging operations are now targeting
single, less extensive, lower quality reservoirs. The paper
discusses the techniques used for predicting and designing for
natural fracture leakoff, high near wellbore pressure losses and
high fracture gradients. It shows the changes in fracturing
ideologies and how they have altered the completion
strategies, predicted fracture geometries, fracturing materials,
treatment schedules, and post-frac production.
Introduction
Hydraulic fracturing began in the Cooper Basin in 1968 and
has been a critical technology in the development of its gas
and oil reserves. Although fracturing has been used
extensively in other regions of Australia such as the small to
medium sized oil fields of the Eromanga Basin in Central
Australia and the Coalbed regions of Eastern Australia, this
paper is focused on the fracturing experience in the more
extreme conditions of the Cooper Basin.
Cooper Basin Description. The basin is a Late Carboniferous
to Middle Triassic, non-marine sedimentary environment,
which underlies the desert region of Eastern-Central Australia
(Figure 1). It is characterised as fluvio-lacustrine, with fining
upward sandstones, siltstones, interbedded shales and coals.
Deposition varies between braided and meandering fluvial
sands & alluvial fans, distributary channels, and crevasse
splays1.

Alice Springs

Brisbane

Perth

Adelaide

1000 km

Sydney
Melbourne

Hobart

Figure 1 - Location of Cooper Basin (Blue) and Overlying


Eromanga Basin (Green)
The basin is the primary on-shore producing area in
Australia for natural gas, while also producing significant oil
and LPG. It extends over a region of 50,000 sq. miles (130,000
km2) and contains over 120 separate gas fields and 10 oil
fields. Production from Cooper Basin reservoirs is presently
600 MMscf/day from 700 gas wells and 2,500 bopd from 50
oil wells. Estimates for recoverable oil and gas reserves are
43.9 MMstb and 8.2 tcf, with remaining reserves (as of 1998)
of 14.8 MMstb and 3.6 tcf1. Reservoir depletion effects on
fracturing can be significant and will be presented later in the
paper.
A graph of the basement depth structure is presented in
Figure 2 and shows the major basin details and fractured well
locations. The primary features are the Nappamerri Trough
that is located in the middle of the basin and the various ridges
that surround the Trough. Most of the significant fields are
located on the North-West, South, East, and North-East ridges.
Previous publications have been written concerning the
Tirrawarra field2-3 which is located in the North-West ridge
and the Kurunda Field4 which is located in the South-East
ridge. Other publications describe general basin reservoir
characteristics and/or fracturing behaviour5-12.

SPE 106051

100 km

Figure 2 - Cooper Basin Structure with Fractured Well


Locations

One 150,000 lb treatment was performed on the reservoir


section highlighted in Figure 4 with the objective to stimulate
the majority of the interval height.

CAL

OHMM
RS

CAL

GAPI 300 11 IN 6 6 IN 11

0.2

OHMM

GAS

2000

0.3

DT

2000 140

US/F

40

V/V

WATER
0.3

V/V

V/V

QUARTZ
0 0

V/V

8% PAY

GR

COAL
0

RT

0.2

4% PAY

metres

Tirrawarra. The Tirrawarra is a 75-250 ft thick single fluvial


sandstone package that is widespread across the basin. At the
lower temperatures it is mainly a volatile oil reservoir, and
where temperatures exceed 300 deg F the reservoir is gas
bearing. Gas properties vary from 12-30% CO2 and 3-65 bbl
condensate per MMscf, while the volatile oil has reservoir
viscosity of ~0.1 cp. Miscible gas flood projects have been
performed on several of the volatile oil fields; however none
are underway at present. Fracturing has been used extensively
in the past for stimulation of the Tirrawarra and accounts for
11% of fracturing treatments performed within the basin. An
example log of the Tirrawarra formation in the Swan Lake
field (North-West Ridge) is included as Figure 4. Track 1
shows Gamma Ray, Track 2 shows X&Y Caliper, Track 3
shows resistivities with separation in yellow, Track 4 shows
sonic velocity, Track 5 shows gas and water effective pore
volumes, Track 6 shows lithologies, and Track 7 shows 4%
and 8% effective porosity pay flags.

Figure 3 Cooper Basin Stratigraphic Column

DEPTH

The primary reservoir units are Permian sandstones; the


Tirrawarra, Patchawarra, Epsilon, Daralingie, and Toolachee.
A general stratigraphic column is presented as Figure 3;
however variations exist that may include regional erosion of
the Epsilon, Daralingie, and/or Toolachee formations. Most
wells contain between 5 and 15 sandstone reservoir units with
a total gross thickness of 500-2,500 ft. The sandstone units
range in depth from 7,000 to 10,500 ft and have high
geothermal gradients of 2.0-3.4 deg F/100 ft. Initial reservoir
pressures are normally pressured (~0.44 psi/ft), with a few
exceptions with slight overpressures (up to 0.52 psi/ft)
observed in some isolated deeper fields and overpressures up
to 0.7 psi/ft in the Nappamerri Trough exploration wells.
Large tectonic stresses produce maximum horizontal
stresses in the east-west orientation between 2.0-3.6. psi/ft 17.
This results in minimum horizontal stresses of 0.55-1.2 psi/ft
and fracture gradients between 0.6-1.4 psi/ft. This impact of
the stress regime on fracturing will be discussed in more detail
later in the paper.

SHALE
0 0

V/V

9850

9900

9950

10000

10050

Figure 4 Example Log of Tirrawarra Formation


Patchawarra. The Patchawarra is the most significant gas
reservoir based on reservoir volume with gross thickness of
300-1500 ft. Gas properties vary from 8-40% CO2 and 0.5-45
bbl condensate per MMscf. The Patchawarra is comprised of
4-8 sandstone intervals with each interval <40 ft thick and

SPE 106051

separated by siltstones and coals. The deposition is lacustrine


deltaic and floodplain, multistory fluvial channel, point bar,
and crevasse splay. Reservoir permeability varies widely
between 0.01-10 md, while fractured intervals have ranged
from 0.01-2 md. Fracturing of this formation has become
more common during the last 10 years (especially with newer
multi-staging techniques) and have accounted for 51% of all
fracturing treatments in the basin. Figure 5 shows an example
log of the Patchawarra formation in the Swan Lake field
(North-West Ridge). Log tracks are the same as for Figure 4.
Three ~50,000 lb fracturing treatments were performed on the
highlighted sections.

2000 140

US/F

40

0.3

V/V

V/V

QUARTZ
0 0

V/V

SHALE
0 0

V/V

GR

CAL

COAL
0

RT

0.2

OHMM
RS

CAL

GAPI 300 11 IN 6 6 IN 11

0.2

OHMM

0.3

DT

2000 140

V/V

GAS

2000
US/F

40

V/V

V/V

WATER
0.3

V/V

QUARTZ
0 0

8% PAY

OHMM

V/V

WATER

4% PAY

0.2

0.3

DT

metres

300 11 IN 6 6 IN 11

GAS

2000

RS

DEPTH

OHMM

8% PAY

GAPI

COAL
0

RT

0.2

CAL

4% PAY

metres

CAL

DEPTH

GR

Epsilon. If present, the Epsilon is a thin fluvio-deltaic and


lacustrine shoreline sandstone interval that rarely exceeds 12 ft
thick, with exceptions of 30-45 ft thickness in a few regions.
It produces gas with condensate between 4-45 bbl/MMscf and
8-24% CO2. Reservoir permeability varies between 0.1-10
md, while the fractured intervals have ranged from 0.1-1 md.
Due to the poor reservoir thickness it only accounts for 5% of
all fracturing treatments. An example log of the Epsilon
formation in the Coonatie field (North Ridge) is included as
Figure 6. Log tracks are the same as for Figure 4. Two
~50,000 lb treatments were pumped on the highlighted
sections in this example targeting the lower and upper sands.

SHALE
0 0

V/V

8800

9400

8850

9450

8900

8950

Figure 6 - Example Log of Epsilon Formation


9000

9050

9100

9150

9200

9250

9300

9350

Daralingie. If present, the Daralingie formation is a lacustrine


delta front bar, beach, and shoreface deposit. It is a thin
interbedded sandstone surrounded by siltstone and coal and is
5-22 ft thick, but can be as up to 200 ft thick in a few regions.
It produces gas with condensate between 2-45 bbl/MMscf and
10-24% CO2. Reservoir permeability varies between 0.1-10
md, while the fractured intervals have ranged from 0.1-0.5 md.
Similar to the Epsilon, limited reservoir thickness has caused
the Daralingie to make up only 3% of all fracturing treatments.
An example log of the Daralingie formation in the Big Lake
field (South-West Ridge) is included as Figure 7. Log tracks
are the same as for Figure 4. One 50,000 lb fracture treatment
was performed on the highlighted section.

9400

0.2

OHMM

RS

CAL

GAPI 300 11 IN 6 6 IN 11

GAS

2000

0.3

DT

2000 140

US/F

40

V/V

WATER
0.3

V/V

V/V

QUARTZ
0 0

V/V

8% PAY

CAL

OHMM

4% PAY

metres

DEPTH

GR
9450

COAL
0

RT

0.2

SHALE
0 0

V/V

9500

7850
9550

9600

7900

9650

7950
9700

Figure 7 - Example Log of Daralingie Formation


9750

9800

9850

Figure 5 Example Log of Patchawarra Formation

Toolachee. The Toolachee is comprised of a large number of


channels and crevasse splay deposits. While average channel
thickness is 15 ft, the total gross thickness is 200-300 ft. The
presence of the Toolachee is widespread across the basin and
contains 25% of the basin gas reserves. It produces gas with
condensate between 0.5-25 bbl/MMscf and 8-42% CO2.

SPE 106051

The Toolachee consists of two units. The lower unit is


carbonaceous shale with interbedded sandstone and coals. The
upper unit is coarse-fine sandstone point bar and channel
sandstone with interbedded shales and coals. Reservoir
permeability varies between 0.2-50 md, while the fractured
intervals have ranged from 0.2-3 md. Treatments in the
Toolachee make up 30% of all fracturing treatments. An
example log of the Toolachee formation in the Big Lake field
(South-West Ridge) is included as Figure 8. Log tracks are
the same as for Figure 4. One 100,000 lb fracturing treatment
was performed on the highlighted sections with perforations in
both sands.

0.2

OHMM

GAS

2000

0.3

DT

2000 140

US/F

40

V/V

WATER
0.3

V/V

V/V

QUARTZ
0 0

V/V

8% PAY

OHMM
RS

GAPI 300 11 IN 6 6 IN 11

COAL
0

RT

0.2

CAL

4% PAY

metres

CAL

DEPTH

GR

SHALE
0 0

V/V

worldwide economies, mainly due to the overabundance of


other power sources (mainly coal), relatively small demand,
and large infrastructure costs. The small demand has limited
basin development and reduced subsequent fracturing activity.
Several significant points affected the overall basin
development.
1963 - Discovery of first commercial gas in the
Moomba field.
1969 - Gas sales to Adelaide via gas pipeline.
1970 - Volatile oil discovered in the Tirrawarra field.
1976 - Gas sales to Sydney via gas pipeline.
1982 - Sale of oil via oil pipeline to Port Bonython.
1992 - Connection and gas sales from North-East
portion of the basin to existing infrastructure.
1997 - Gas sales to Brisbane via gas pipeline.
1998 - Gas sales to Mt Isa via gas pipeline.

7600

Several changes in fracturing technology and applications


occurred during these phases of the basin development. These
developments centered on improvements in fracturing fluids
and proppants, expansion of fracturing into the volatile oil and
smaller gas fields throughout the basin, and improved
targeting of treatments to more adequately stimulate the multilayered intervals. To better describe these changes, the
fracturing history will be separated into four sub-groups;
1968-1979 Initial Fracs, 1980-1995 Fracturing
Expansion within the Basin, 1996-2002 Fracturing as
Standard Practice, and 2003-2006 Target Fracturing.

7650

7700

7750

7800

Figure 8 - Example Log of Toolachee Formation

Fracturing History. Over 650 fracturing treatments have


been performed in 400 wells within the Cooper Basin. Figure
9 shows the yearly trend in the number of treatments, fractured
wells, and stages per well. While the number of treated wells
peaked in 2001 with 54 wells, the number of treatments
continues to rise and is now roughly 90 fracs per year with an
average of over 3 fracs per well.
100

5
Fracs/Well

Wells

1968-1979 Initial Fracs. The first Cooper Basin fracture


treatment was conducted in 1968 and established fracturing as
a viable stimulation technique. Five additional trials were
performed during this decade with all treatments within the
Moomba field (South-East) and in the Toolachee formation
(with some Daralingie intervals also open in two wells). The
first three treatments used linear gels and placed ~60,000 lbs
of 20/40 sand, while the next three treatments were performed
using a Titanium crosslinked hydroxyl-propyl guar (HPG) gel
and placed larger amounts (100,000-240,000 lbs) of mostly
10/20 sand. On four of the six treatments, ball sealers were
used to attempt to divert the treatment into multiple intervals
(3-13 intervals open per treatment).

Fracs

1996-2002 Fracturing as Standard Practice. A total of 290


jobs were performed as fracturing became an integral part of

60

40

20

19
6
19 9-1
84 98
19 -1 3
8 98
19 8-1 7
9 98
19 0-1 9
92 99
19 -1 1
95 99
-1 4
99
19 6
97
19
9
19 8
9
20 9
00
20
0
20 1
02
20
0
20 3
04
20
0
20 5
06

4
Fracs/Well

Activity has been limited in scope annually due to low


natural gas prices in Australia, as compared to other

Wells or Fracs

Figure 9 - Number of Wells and Fracs

1980-1995 Fracturing Expansion within the Basin. During


this 15 year period, a total of 106 jobs were performed as
fracturing was extended throughout the major fields within the
basin and into the Epsilon, Tirrawarra and Patchawarra
formations. An expansion of fracturing technology was fueled
during the early 1980s due to interest in enhancing oil
production of the Tirrawarra field. Treatments in the
Toolachee/ Daralingie formations had 4-13 intervals open,
while treatments in Epsilon, Patchawarra & Tirrawarra
formations had 1-5 intervals open. Treatments were performed
using Titanate crosslinked HPG gel and placed between
50,000-150,000 lbs of 20/40 sand with tail-ins of ~30,000 lbs
of 12/20 or 16/20 bauxite.

80

SPE 106051

Average Production (MMscf/day)

Conventional Fracs

Pin-Point Fracs

7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

2003-2006 Target Fracturing. A total of 244 jobs were


performed as treatments became more focused with most
treatments targeting single sands. A pivotal part of this
strategy change was the introduction of annular coiled tubing
fracturing, termed pin-point fracturing (PPF), in 2004.
Treatments were still performed using Borate crosslinked HPG
or Zirconium crosslinked CMHPG gels; however jobs were
performed with significantly reduced gel loadings and more
aggressive breaker schedules. As fracturing began targeting
smaller intervals, job sizes were reduced and treatments placed
between 30,000-150,000 lbs of 20/40 and 16/30 ceramic
proppants. As increases in near wellbore pressure losses and
fracture gradients were observed, proppant types were
adjusted to use intermediate-strength and bauxite proppants
when stress > 7000 psi for 20/40 and > 6000 psi for 16/30
sizes.

25

Conventional Fracs

Pin-Point Fracs

20
15
10
5
0

19
69
19 -19
84 83
19 -19
88 87
19 -19
90 89
19 -19
92 91
19 -19
95 94
-1
99
6
19
97
19
98
19
99
20
00
20
01
20
02
20
03
20
04
20
05
20
06

Estimated Recovery per Well (Bcf)

Figure 10 - Average Production per Well

Figure 11 - Estimated Recovery per Well


A plot of the fracturing production increase for the
intervals with pre-frac production is presented in Figure 12.
An average productivity increase of 2.5-4.5 folds is observed;
however it should be noted that this graph only represents 90
treatments out of the 650 performed. Many intervals are not
able to adequately produce without fracture stimulation or
were not prefrac tested (due to operational efficiency
especially the PPFs) and are not reflected in this illustration.

Post-Frac Q / Pre-Frac Q

19
69
-1
98
3
19
84
-1
98
8
19
89
-1
99
1
19
92
-1
99
4
19
95
-1
99
7
19
98
-1
99
9
20
00
-2
00
1
20
02
-2
00
4

Fracturing Statistics. Average well production response is


presented as Figure 10 which shows a trend of decreasing well
production per year for conventionally fractured wells,
especially in the last decade. Improved well responses have
been observed with the introduction of PPF in the last 2-3
years. The decreasing well production observed in
conventional fracs was caused by depletion effects in the more
established fields and movement into more marginal areas.
The production per well for the PPFs is significantly larger
than the conventional wells due to increasing the numbers of
treatments per well. Detailed discussion of the PPF results are
presented by Gilbert and Greenstreet11 and Beatty ET al12, plus
a review of multi-staging strategies will be discussed later in
the paper.
The average well recovery for the fractured wells is
presented in Figure 11 and shows a trend of decreasing well
recovery per year. Estimated recoveries for years 2004-6 are
approximations based on initial rates due to limited production
history. The decreasing well recovery is caused by depletion
effects in the more established fields and the need to target
smaller, less extensive reservoirs. The impact of expanding
multi-staging operations is difficult to determine at this time
due to limited extended production time, however initial rates
are indicating that the multi-staging is developing roughly
twice the reserves per well.

19
69
19 -19
84 83
19 -19
88 87
19 -19
90 89
19 -19
92 91
19 -19
95 94
-1
99
6
19
97
19
98
19
99
20
00
20
01
20
02
20
03
20
04
20
05
20
06

new completions. Nitrogen assisted jobs (up to 30%) were


introduced in 2000 for treating depleted formations, as
fracturing was used to treat formations with as low as 1200 psi
reservoir pressure. Expansion of fracturing was also observed
into the North-East portion of the field. Treatments were still
designed to treat multiple intervals simultaneously and were
performed using Borate crosslinked HPG or Zirconium
crosslinked carboxy-methal-hydroxyl-propyl guar (CMHPG)
gels at concentrations of 60-80 lb/Mgal. The use of sand as
proppant was discontinued and treatments placed between
100,000-200,000 lbs of 20/40 and 16/20 light weight ceramic
proppants.

Figure 12 - Average Fracturing Folds of Increase


Average fluid and proppant quantities are presented in
Figure 13. It shows that average treatment prior to 2003 was
~60,000 gallons of fluid and ~100,000 lbs of proppant. After

SPE 106051

2002, the average treatment size was reduced to ~40,000


gallons of fluid and ~50,000 lbs of proppant. The reason for
the reduction in job size is apparent when the data is shown as
a function of the amount of productive pay interval (Figure
14).
Fluid

Propppant

120000
100000
80000
60000
40000
20000

19
97
19
98
19
99
20
00
20
01
20
02
20
03
20
04
20
05
20
06

0
19
69
-1
19 99
91 0
-1
99
6

Volume or Proppant (gals or lbs)

140000

can transition with increasing depth to the boundary between


reverse and strike-slip (H > h = v) and then into the reverse
faulting regime (H > h > v). The maximum horizontal stress
is in the east-west orientation as shown in Figure 1519 with
orientation rotating gradually in the western portion of the
basin.

Figure 13 - Treatment Volumes and Proppant Amounts


Treatments prior to 2004 averaged 2,000-3,000 gal/ft and
3,000-8,000 lb/ft, while treatments from 2004-2006 averaged
5,000-11,000 gal/ft and 4,000-18,000 lb/ft. The reduction in
productive pay interval per treatment was due to a philosophy
change toward limiting the amount of intervals targeted per
treatment, plus the targeting of previously bypassed pay.
20000
Per Net Pay (gal/ft or lb/ft)

18000

Fluid

Proppant

16000
14000
12000
10000
8000
6000
4000
2000

19
97
19
98
19
99
20
00
20
01
20
02
20
03
20
04
20
05
20
06

19
69
-1
19 990
91
-1
99
6

Figure 14 - Fluid & Proppant Amount per Net Footage

Discussion. The paper will be divided into the following


sections for more in-depth discussion: 1) Stress Regime, 2)
Diagnostic Fracture Injection Tests, 3) High Reservoir
Temperatures, 4) Depletion, 5) Completion Designs, and 6)
Multi-Staging Strategies. Each of these sections will briefly
summarize the history of experience within the Cooper Basin
and describe the items impact on treatment designs,
placement, and post-frac production performance.

Stress Regime
The contemporary stress regime in the Cooper Basin has been
extensively studied13-25 using density logs, well tests and
wellbore deformation modelling. The stress regime is strikeslip (H > v > h) in the shallower regions of the basin and

Figure 15 - Hydraulic Fracture Orientation from Borehole


Deformation Analysis19
The magnitude of the maximum horizontal stress is
estimated to be between 2.0 and 3.6 psi/ft 17. This large
tectonic stress causes elevated fracturing pressures that vary
significantly within the basin and follow local trends due to
faulting and reservoir quality. An example of the average
fracture gradient from injection shut-in pressures for the
Patchawarra formation is shown in Figure 16. This figure
illustrates that the fracture gradient varies between 0.6 and 1.4
psi/ft, with the lower gradients observed in the West, South,
and South-East portions of the basin. High stresses have been
observed on the border or within the Nappemerri Trough.
Similar plots are observed with the interpreted closure
pressures (not shown), although the variations in stresses are
less dramatic than the variations of observed fracture
gradients.

SPE 106051

100 km

Figure 16 Frac Gradients for Basin in Patchawarra

The stress variations are easier to observe when plotted for


a particular field, as displayed in Figure 17 for the Big Lake
field (South-East Central Area). This figure shows the
variation in the fracture gradient for the lower section of the
Patchawarra formation. The gradient is observed to vary
between 0.88 and 1.26 psi/ft, with an obvious low stress
region in the middle of the field adjacent to the main fault.
Within the areas shaded between purple and green (also
segregated by dashed line), the gradients are less than 1.05
psi/ft and conventional gelled treatments can be placed
successfully and provide excellent post-frac production.
Outside of this low stress area, conventional gel treatment
placement is more difficult and rarely results in significant
post-frac production. Although not present in this figure, this
low stress region is also observed for treatments in the
Tirrawarra formation (with a significant shrinkage of the sweet
spot) or in the upper portion of the Patchawarra formation
(with a significant expansion of the sweet spot). No apparent
low stress region has been observed within this field for the
Toolachee formation treatments as fracture gradients are
almost always less than 0.95 psi/ft.

Figure 17 - Frac Gradients for Big Lake Field in the Lower


Patchawarra Formation Well for Figure 19 Highlighted
The impact of these stress variations within the basin is
dramatic on the ability to obtain good post-frac production.
Previous experience in the basin has shown that it has been
rare to obtain significant post-frac production when fracture

SPE 106051

gradients have exceeded 1.05 psi/ft7-8. To illustrate the trend of


reservoir quality versus fracture gradient, the after closure
analysis KH values from fracturing diagnostic injections are
plotted versus the fracture gradient in Figure 18. With the
introduction of more targeted fracturing treatments, the trend
of acceptable post-frac production has been extended to
~1.15 psi/ft, however there remains a strong trend of reduced
reservoir quality versus fracture gradient.
The major factors controlling localised stress variations
remain unclear; however are most likely a combination of
structural features as illustrated in the previous figures, and
variations in reservoir quality. Regions of lower stress
coincide with regions of higher formation porosity and
permeability, while higher stresses are normally indicative of
poor reservoir quality. It is uncertain however which of these
factors is the dominating influence i.e. whether lower
reservoir quality translates to more tectonic stresses or whether
higher tectonic stresses have caused reduction of reservoir
quality. Irrespective of which is the dominate influence, the
understanding of the regional stress variations have lead to
improved risking of new prospects, concentration of new wells
in more benign stress regions, and the use of waterfracs type
treatments in regions of high stress (discussed below).

shear failure mechanisms that can not be altered without


reservoir depletion. Treatments can be placed successfully
using conventional crosslinked fluids, however post-frac
production results are usually poor for these treatment types.
The best results in high gradient formations have been the use
of waterfracs treatments to provide reservoir permeability
improvement. An example of a waterfrac treatment in an
8500 ft Patchawarra interval in the Big Lake field is presented
in Figure 19. This well was in the known high stressed region
of the field as shown in Figure 17. A crosslinked minifrac
(shown at the start of the graph) was pumped with the hope
that a convention frac would be appropriate. Once the high
fracturing pressures (1.25 psi/ft) and high near wellbore
pressure loss (2900 psi @ 27 bpm) were observed, the main
treatment was altered to a waterfrac treatment (shown at the
end of the graph). The treatment used 125,000 gallons of
friction reduced water to place 20,000 lbs of 30/60 bauxite.
Tubing Pressure (psi)

A Calc'd BH Pressure (psi)


B Bottomhole Proppant Conc (lb/gal)

A Slurry Rate (bpm)


16000

A
C

B
32

14000

28

12000

24

10000

20

8000

16

C
4

After Closure Analysis KH (md-ft)

1000

6000

100

12
Minifrac &
Frac
Separated
by 1 Day

4000

10

2000

0
0

60

120

180

240

0
300

Time (minutes)

0.1
0.5

0.7

0.9

1.1

1.3

1.5

Figure 19 - X-Linked Minifrac & Main Treatment


Waterfrac in 8500 ft Big Lake Lower Patchawarra
Interval

Frac Gradient (psi/ft)

Figure 18 - Fracture Injection Test KH from After Closure


Analysis vs. Fracture Gradient

Treatment Designs for High Stressed Formations. The


designs strategies for treating high fracture gradient intervals
have evolved from trials to remediate the high apparent
gradient (values > 1.05 psi/ft) with the belief that fracture
complexities (multiple fractures, re-orientation, etc.) were
causing the elevated pressures. Techniques that have obtained
limited or no success in remediating or preventing the
apparent high gradients are 1) ball-out treatments, 2) acid
breakdowns, 3) gel slugs, 4) proppant slugs, 5) changing
perforating gun types between deep penetrating and big hole
charges, 6) oriented perforating, or 7) abrasive jetting
(including slotting). The only techniques that have shown any
significant ability in reducing fracturing gradients have been
prolonged injection volume (particularly with low viscosity
fluids) or reservoir pressure depletion.
Contemporary strategy is based on the acceptance that
little can be done to alleviate the high apparent fracture
gradients and the high gradients are indications of inherent

The post-frac response of this interval was approximately 1


MMscf/day (determined from post-frac production log), which
is a satisfactory result based on the after closure analysis KH
of 2.9 md-ft. Previous experience would indicate that this
result is better than what would be observed using a
conventional crosslinked treatment.
Extension of the waterfrac technology into large volume
shear dilation treatments has been proposed26-27 and trialled
recently in a hot dry rock project28 in the basement granite
below the Cooper Basin. This type of treatment is now being
considered for the sedimentary rock in the Cooper Basin29.
These treatments are large volume water injections conducted
to enhance reservoir permeability through shear displacements
of natural fractures. Treatment volumes for the granite
treatments have been very large (3-5 million gallons) and
require several days of injection. This technology may be
especially applicable for formations in which conventional
gelled fracturing treatments are unsuccessful due to natural
fractures and unfavourable stress regimes.

SPE 106051

# Not
ACA KH (mdPI
Analyzed
ft)
(Mscf/day/psi)
125
10.9
1.36
22
2.2
1.32
20
5.6
1.03
124
6.7
1.01
41
13.8
1.44

1400
1200
NWBPL (psi)

1000
800
600
400
200
0
19
97
19
97
-1
99
19
8
98
-1
99
19
9
99
-2
00
20
0
00
-2
00
20
1
01
-2
00
20
2
02
-2
00
20
3
03
-2
00
20
4
04
-2
00
20
5
05
-2
00
20
6
06
-2
00
7

Frac Grad Clos Grad NWBPL


#
Formation
(psi/ft)
(psi/ft)
(psi)
Analyzed
Toolachee
0.93
0.77
867
100
Daralingie
0.94
0.82
434
5
Epsilon
0.94
0.80
1129
16
Patchawarra
0.96
0.79
1039
222
Tirrawarra
0.90
0.77
657
58

change in ideology with regards mitigating NWBPL that


occurred in 2002.

Pr
e

Diagnostic Fracture Injectivity Tests (DFITs)


To date over 700 individual injections for diagnostic purposes
have been pumped in the Cooper Basin. Table 1 gives a
summary of the formations and some general statistics of the
injection output parameters. From this table it is evident that
the most injections have been performed on the Toolache and
Patchawarra formations with a general increase in fracturing
difficulty with depth. The Tirrawarra formation which
typically has a much thicker more homogenous sand package
doesnt fit this trend. The design and execution of the injection
tests fall into two main categories that are driven by the
assumptions and ideologies of the time. These two categories
can be separated into pre and post 2002.

Figure 20 - History of NWBPL

Table 1 - DFIT Analysis Sorted by Formation

Post 2002 DFITs. The main philosophy change post 2002


was to use the DFIT to characterize the reservoir rather than to
condition the wellbore for the main treatment. The prefrac
injection for non-PPF treatments consisted of 2000-5000 gals
of crosslinked gel followed by a step down test to categorise
the near wellbore region. For PPF treatments, the DFIT was at
5000 gal injection of 40 lb linear gel/Mgal most often placing
the abrasive jetting sand slurry (composed of 40 lb linear
gel/Mgal plus 1 lb/gal 20/40 sand) into the formation. The frac
gradient, leakoff type, closure pressure, reservoir permeability
and reservoir pressure were determined to assess the reservoir
quality. The step down test was used to characterize the near
wellbore region for tortuosity and perforation friction.
Typically post-2002 attempts to mitigate NWBPL were only
attempted when NWPBL exceeded 2000 psi as compared to a
pre-2002 cutoff of 900 psi. Figure 20 shows graphically the

Near-Wellbore Pressure Loss (NWBPL). Conventional


wisdom would suggest that NWBPL and stress would be
intertwined. Review of the fracturing data within the Cooper
Basin, however, does not show any relationship between the
NWBPL and stress as illustrated in Figure 21. This figure
plots the values of the NWBPL versus the fracture gradients
for both conventionally perforated intervals and abrasive jetted
intervals, with no apparent observable trends. Additionally,
no trend was observed between after closure analysis (ACA)
KH values from fracturing injection data and NWPBL (Figure
22), confirming the lack of relationship between NWBPL and
magnitude of in-situ stress.
3000
Near Wellbore Pressure Loss (psi)

Pre-2002 DFITs. At least two injections into the formation


before the main fracture treatment has been a standard
procedure up to 2002. This consisted of a large crosslinked gel
minifrac (13,000-27,000 gallons) followed by a slickwater
step rate test (SRT). From the minifrac the frac gradient,
NWBPL and leakoff values were determined. From the SRT
an extension pressure was determined to give assistance in
picking the closure pressure. General guideline was to pick the
closure pressure 200 psi below the fracture extension value. If
the NWBPL was deemed to be excessive (>900psi), gel slugs
and/or proppant slugs where pumped to mitigate the NWBPL
to below 900 psi. Above a fracture gradient of 1.05 psi/ft no
remediation of NWBPL was attempted and either a very
conservative fracture treatment was pumped (termed a
tolerance design) or the treatment was aborted depending on
the magnitude of the NWBPL. The gel slugs to remediate the
NWBPL were 2000 gallon injections (plus displacement) with
gel loadings of 80 to 110 lb/Mgal. Almost all DFITs prior to
2002 had bottomhole memory gauges that had to be recovered
via slickline before pumping the main treatment. The main
emphasis of the DFITs prior to 2002 was to minimize
placement risk.

Pin-Point
Conventional

2000

1000

0
0.5

0.7

0.9

1.1

1.3

1.5

Frac Gradient (psi/ft)

Figure 21 - Variation in NWBPL versus Frac Gradient

10

SPE 106051

After Closure KH (md-ft)

1000

Leakoff Type
Unknown
Normal
Height Rec.
PDL
Tip Ext.

100

10

Frac Grad Clos Grad NWBPL


#
(psi/ft)
(psi/ft)
(psi)
Analyzed
0.92
0.79
651
149
0.91
0.77
957
78
0.92
0.75
732
79
1.02
0.80
1532
62
1.21
0.95
2306
5

# Not
ACA KH (mdPI
Analyzed
ft)
(Mscf/day/psi)
394
4.9
1.39
12.9
0.86
6.2
0.95
5.7
0.61
1.2
0.17

Table 2 - Sorting of DFITs by Leakoff Type


1

0.1
0

500

1000

1500

2000

2500

3000

NWPBL (psi)

Figure 22 - Fracture Injection Test KH from After Closure


Analysis vs. NWBPL
A recent study by Nelson et al31-33 indicated that rock
fabric and high rock tensile strength were major predictors for
high near-wellbore pressure loss. Borehole image logs were
used to determine the presence of existing rock fabric such as
natural fractures or open bedding planes. Presence of these
types of rock fabric correlated well for intervals that exhibited
high NWBPL behaviour. Additionally, tensile strength from
Copper Basin sandstone cores were determined to be between
500 and 2200 psi, with increasing values with decreasing
porosity. Problematic rock fabric was found to coincide with
high tensile strength formations, indicating shear failure and
slippage were likely occurring in these formations under
elevated pressure conditions.

The mechanism for picking closure has changed with the


advent of the superposition G-Function. An illustration of the
different picks is most evident in a height recession case
where previously an early pick would have been made at the
intersection of two straight lines (Figure 24). This early pick
leads to a lower fluid efficiency and a more conservative
eventual treatment design. Using the G-Function plot a more
consistent closure determination is now possible dispensing
with the need for a separate step rate test. Reanalysing
previous large gelled minifracs with the updated technique
suggests that a large proportion of injections have not reached
closure at the termination of the test making any ACA
impossible.

Minifrac - G Function
Time CBP
BHP (psi)
1st Derivative (psi)
G*dP/dG (psi)

A
10000

A
D
D

SP

DP

Pre 2002

2.18 7678

7681

1041 53.43

FE

Post 2002

2.95 6671

6681

2048 60.90

(0.763, 9999)
(3.815, 5995)

9000

5000
(Y
= 8666)
(0.056,
8645)

8000

Leakoff Type Definition. Determination of the leakoff type


has played an important role in fracture treatment design with
the advent of the diagnostic G-Function plot with
superposition as detailed by Barree30. The breakdown of
leakoff types is spread evenly amongst the three major types
with the exception of tip extension of which only 5 cases have
been identified (Figure 23). Of the leakoff types present, tip
extension and pressure dependent leakoff (PDL) are most
indicative of increased placement risk through NWBPL and
lower eventual production. The normal leakoff and height
recession give very similar results in terms of NWBPL and
eventual PI. The KH derived from ACA tends to understate
the productivity of the zone for height recession (see Table 2).
Tip Ext.
2%

Normal
33%

PDL
27%

Height Rec.
38%

Figure 23 - Leakoff Types from Diagnostic Fracture


Injections

D
6000

4000

(m = -1521)

7000

(m = -388)

3000

(m = 1573)

6000

2000
(7.795, 5642)
(Y = 5640)

5000

4000

1000

(4.672, 4053)
(0.002,
(Y
= 0) 0)

0
6

G(Time)
StimWin v4.8.2
01-Dec-06 09:42

Figure 24 - Picking Closure


After Closure Analysis (ACA). Previously the DFIT
injection was used to calibrate the fluid leakoff number so a
match of the net pressure was possible. With the advent of
after closure analysis an assessment of the reservoir KH and
pressure was possible. The ACA process of taking the pressure
decline after closure and plotting against the radial time
function is shown below (Figure 25).

SPE 106051

11

ACA - Cartesian Pseudoradial


7000

6000

5500
(m = 5151.1)

5000

4500
Results
Reservoir Pressure = 3782.67 psi
Transmissibility, kh/ = 191.18247 md*ft/cp
kh = 4.69420 md*ft
Permeability, k = 0.4602 md

4000

3500
0.0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.0

1.2

1.4

1.6

1.8

Radial Flow Time Function

180

40%

160

35%

140

30%

120

25%

100

20%

80

15%

60

10%

40

5%

20

0%

Pr
e
1
19 99
97 7
-1
19 99
98 8
-1
19 99
99 9
-2
20 00
00 0
-2
20 00
01 1
-2
20 00
02 2
-2
20 00
03 3
-2
20 00
04 4
-2
20 00
05 5
-2
20 00
06 6
-2
00
7

Screenout%

6500

45%

Gross Height (ft)

Stage 1 (Jets at 9352 ft)


Bottom Hole Pressure (psi)

StimWin v4.8.1
20-Jul-05 08:19

%screenouts

Figure 25 - ACA example

Gross

Figure 27 - Historical Screenout % and Grass frac height


The correlation between ACA KH and productivity index is
shown below (Figure 26) and while the scatter is large,
qualitatively ACA gives the correct prediction. Therefore the
analysis has not given either false positive or false negative
results. An issue highlighted by the data is that ACA KH
results are affected by the leakoff type with height recession
leading to under prediction of the eventual production.

10
Nappamerri
Trough

G
id
ge
al
pa

Patchawarra
Trough

0.1
W
o
lo
oo

0.01

gh
ou
Tr

Productivity Index (Mscf/psi)

100

High Reservoir Temperatures


The Cooper Basin has an average geothermal gradient of 2.55
F / 100 ft. This corresponds to an average 300 F at 9000 ft.
The gradients can be as high as 3.42 F/100ft in the
Nappamerri Trough and as low as 2.02 F/100ft in the
Patchawarra Trough (see Figure 28). The elevated
temperatures at moderate depth are due to the accumulation of
radioactive granites beneath the producing intervals.

Present DFIT Strategy. There has been a transition away


from large gelled injections and step rate tests to smaller less
viscous injections. The emphasis has also changed from
mitigating NWBPL to reduce placement risk toward reservoir
evaluation. In moving to smaller injections and not mitigating
NWBPL it might be expected that the screenout frequency
should increase. Looking at the screenout percentage over
time it is apparent that the proportion of screenouts increased
in the 2004-2005 timeframe (see Figure 27). This corresponds
to the targeting smaller zone with PPF and not the change in
minifrac design. During the first year after instituting the
smaller injections without pumping remedial injections the
screenout frequency of the main treatment actually decreased.

Ho
rs
t

Figure 26 - Correlation of After Closure Analysis versus


Productivity Index

ee

1000

ur
te
r

100

10
After Closure KH (md-ft)

Tr
o

Al
lu
ng
a

0.1

ug
h

0.001

Figure 28 - Variation in Geothermal Gradient for South &


Central Portion of the Basin
Throughout the development of the Cooper basin different
gel types, loading, breakers and fluid additives strategies have
been used to cope with the high static formation temperature.
The development of these strategies has been driven by the
assumptions made about fluid and proppant transport,
injection profiles and fluid heat up rates. The assumption
prevalent in the early 90s was that the fluid heated rapidly to
static formation temperature once it entered through the
perforations. A rule of thumb used in fluid design used at the
time was >100cp for the job duration at a shear rate of 170
sec-1. This resulted in high gel loadings, use of gel stabilisers
and low or even no breakers being run in the fluid. From the
late 90s onwards more emphasis was placed on reducing gel
loadings to minimize polymer damage and moving to more
aggressive break schedules to maximize the potential for frac
fluids to cleanup. The trend in reducing gel loadings

12

SPE 106051

eliminating the use of gel stabilizer and increasing breaker


loadings is seen in Figure 29.

10

20
06

20
05

20
04

20
03

20
02

0
20
01

30
20
00

19
99

40

Figure 29 - History of Fracturing Fluid Changes


During this period there has not been a significant increase
in screenout frequency suggesting that the previous
assumptions with regards the heat up of frac fluids lead to
overly conservative fluid design. The current philosophy
assumes that near fracture, the temperature cools to 20 F
above base fluid surface temperature after displacing 2 tubing
volumes. Using this criterion frac jobs have been placed at 325
F for a fluid that is rated to 300 F. The maximum breaker
loading has also been increased in both the pad fluid and the
slurry stages to assist in frac cleanup. The early production
results of this initiative are difficult to assess but it has not
resulted in increased screenouts.
Depletion
Depletion of the various horizons in the Cooper Basin is a
certainty throughout the existing producing fields. Pore
pressures in the basin can be as low as 500 psi, corresponding
to pore pressure gradients as low as 0.07 psi/ft. As many of the
formations are damaged, fracturing these formations presents
significant challenges such as low fluid recovery, water
blocking, and proppant pack damage due to excessive leakoff.
On the other hand, one advantage of fracturing depleted
reservoirs in this high stress environment is that stress
decreases with depletion and hence helps with fracture
placement success and height containment.
Historically, energised and foamed fluids have been
globally effective to reduce the negative impacts of depletion
in hydraulic fracture treatments. In the Cooper Basin, similar
success has been obtained with the use of nitrogen energised
treatments. These treatments were introduced in late 2000 with
the introduction of nitrogen commingled borate fluids. Thirtyseven intervals have now been treated using this fluid system,
with the amount of nitrogen varied based on the level of
depletion. The pore pressure gradient is used to decide on the
quality of nitrogen to add to the fracturing fluids as shown in
the Table 3.

To improved post-frac clean-up, the gel loadings of the


borate fluids have been reduced from the initial 60 lb/Mgal
concentration to the current 35-40 lb/Mgal concentration along
with present use of an aggressive breaker schedule and surface
tension reducers. The general procedure for post frac clean-up
is to get the well flowing as soon as possible to maximize the
benefits of the stored energy within the fluid. Flowback is
continued until the well is able to be placed on-line into field
production systems. Coiled tubing is normally avoided but is
required in some instances to maintain cleanup.
Based on the previously described design criteria and
flowback practices, some encouraging production results have
been observed. These are summarised in Table 4 and Figure
30 and show the benefits of increasing nitrogen quality,
especially when the quality was increased above 20%. These
trends would suggest that higher quality foams would result in
better production results; however limited nitrogen equipment
and pressure restrictions have so far limited the nitrogen
quality to a maximum of 50%. Plans to use carbon dioxide to
energise the fluid have been made for 2007 as CO2 brings
operational advantages such as reduced surface treating
pressures and the ability to use conventional pumping
equipment. Additionally, CO2 should improve fracture cleanup as it remains in the fracturing fluid for a longer period of
time and reduces water surface tension.
N2 Quality Fracs
10-20%
14
20-30%
12
30-50%
6

Pre-Frac Qi
(Mscf/day)
900
961
1767

Post-Frac Qi
(Mscf/day)
1405
2142
2567

BHP Gradient
(psi/ft)
0.255
0.150
0.148

Qi PI
(scf/psi)
793
2532
3169

Table 4 - Summary of N2 Frac Results


3500
Post Frac PI (scf/psi) or BHP (psi)

50

15

Stabilizer and Max Breaker Conc.


(lb/Mgal or gal/Mgal)

20

Polymer Loading
Gel Stabilizer
High Temp Oxidizing Breaker

60

19
98

Polymer Loading (lb/Mgal)

70

Pore Pressure
N2
Gradient (psi/ft)
Quality
> 0.25
Not Energised
0.2-0.25
20%
0.15-0.20
30%
<0.15
50%
Table 3 Historical Guidelines for Nitrogen Quality

3000

PI
BHP

2500
2000
1500
1000
500
0
10-20%

20-30%

30-50%

N2 Quality

Figure 30 - Impact of N2 in Depleted Formations


One of the challenges of fracturing depleted reservoirs is to
effectively stimulate multiple intervals with varying levels of
depletion. If multiple intervals are perforated, then would be

SPE 106051

13

60
2 7/8

3 1/2

4 1/2

5 1/2

Number of Wells

50
40
30
20
10

20
06

20
04

20
02

20
00

19
98

19
96

19
94

19
92

19
90

19
69
-1
97
19
9
85
-1
98
8

Figure 31 - History of Fractured Well Completion Types

Initial Deliverability (MMscf/D)

10

Conventional Completions
(Rig Assisted Fracs)

Monobore Completions
(Rigless Fracs)

4.5

160
Initial 1 Month Rate
Ave. 12 Month Rate
Ave.Gross Ht.

3.5
3.0

140
120
100

2.5

80

2.0

60

1.5

20

0.0

on
-N
4

1/

2"

1/
2"
-

PP

8"
7/
2

1/

7"
&
1/

2"

PP
F

40

0.5
2"

1.0

Figure 33 Production vs. Completion type


The major drawbacks of the smaller wellbores are the
inability to perform rapid multi-staging operations and the
limitations in treatment rates. The 3 monobores are no
longer recommended due to the need to install siphon strings
as the rate to lift liquids is excessive for many wells. The 4
casing completions present the most desirable configuration
for new fractured well completions, however the cost
differential between a 4 casing with 2 3/8 chrome tubing
and the 2 7/8 chrome monobores provides economic
justification for use of the monobores in marginal projects.
A variation of the 4 completion design has been used to
recomplete older wells when new stimulation opportunities
have been identified. Most of these wells have a 7 casing
which is not rated to withstand fracturing. In these cases, a 4
casing string is cemented inside the existing completion to
allow follow-up fracturing operations. Successful treatments
have been performed following perforating or abrasive jetting
through the dual 4 & 7 casings.

8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1

W
9
el
l#
W 10
el
l#
W 11
el
l#
W 12
el
l#
13

el
l#

el
l#
W

el
l#

6
el
l#

el
l#

el
l#

el
l#

el
l#

el
l#

Figure 32 - Impact of Limiting Workover Operations

Multi-Staging Strategies
Stimulating multiple sand intervals and formations has been a
challenge since fracturing began in the basin. This is most
apparent in areas with tandem completions from multiple
formations or when producing from multiple Patchawarra or
Toolachee sands. The need was recognised from the onset as
the first treatments used ball sealers to attempt treat multiple
Toolachee & Daralingie Sands with one operation. All multistage fracturing operations prior to 1996 were performed using
dedicated frac strings, while isolation for multi-stage

Ave. Gross Height (ft)

4.0

Completion Type
A history of the completion types during the basin
development is presented in Figure 31. Completions from
1968 to mid-late 1990s consisted of 5 or 7 casing, while
the fracturing treatments were performed using either 3 or
4 frac strings. With declining reservoir quality and
depletion, chrome 3 monobore completions were
introduced in 1997 as a way to reduce well costs, plus
minimise post-frac kill operations34. The benefit of the 3
monobores is shown in Figure 32. The wells in this figure
were all from the same formation in the same field and show
the benefit from preventing post-frac kill operations. The
chrome monobores were further reduced in size to 2 7/8
strings in 2002 as a further effort to reduce job costs in more
marginal areas. Additionally, 4 completions were also
introduced in 2002 and have gradually grown to become the
preferred casing size for new multi-staged completions.
Present completion strategy is 4 casing for multi-stage
wells and 2 7/8 chrome monobores for single frac
completions.

The initial and average production for each completion


type is summarised in Figure 33; however it is difficult to
separate the completion effects from the reservoir quality
variations (apparent by the change in average gross heights).
Although the highest production rates were obtained from the
5 or 7 casings, most of these treatments were performed
during the early basin development in better quality reservoirs.
Performance continues to trend the dates of completion design
changes and targeted gross height with the 3 monobores
(introduced in 1997) outperforming the 2 7/8 monobores
(introduced in 2002) and 4 casing (also introduced in
2002). This explains the move to smaller wellbores from a
cost reduction standpoint as the reservoirs became depleted
and more marginal intervals were being targeted.
Ave Prod per Frac (MMscf/d)

expected that the zone with the lowest pore pressure will take
most or all of the treatment. Standard multi-staging techniques
are not typically suitable for many of the depleted wells,
especially the older 7 completions or newer 2 7/8 monobores.
The use of mechanical flapper valves that are run on casing
and located in between zones of interest are planned for trials
in 2007 for multi-staging of depleted zones.

14

CASE HOLE GAMMA

GAPI

200

GAPI

200

SONIC

140

US/F

metres

OPEN HOLE GAMMA

DEPTH

PERFORATIONS

COAL
0

RT

0.2

OHMM

2000

GAS
0.3

RS

CALIPER CALIPER

40 11 IN 6 6 IN 11

0.2

OHMM

2000

V/V

WATER
0.3

V/V

V/V

SPINNERS

QUARTZ
0 0

V/V

-10

300

V/V

RPS

110

TEMPERATURE

SHALE
0 0

DEGF 350

8000

8050

8100

8150

8200

8250

8300

8350

8400

Figure 34 - Post-Frac Production Log Showing Limited


Fracture Height Coverage
The result of the previous figure is inconsistent with the
predicted fracture geometry that was obtained after treating
pressure matching (Figure 35) using an industry pseudo-3D
linear-elastic fracturing simulator. Although fracture growth
may have occurred that is not in communication with the top
or bottom perforations, it is more likely that the fracture
growth was more contained in the middle sands. This is
supported by production history matching results (not shown)
that indicate a post-frac production rate of ~50% of the prefrac expectation.
99.17 min

TVD
ft
8000

0.000
0.393

1.180
1.573

8100

1.967
2.360
2.754
3.147
8200

3.540
3.934

6000

6500 7000 7500


Stress (psi)

8000

100

200
Fracture Penetration (ft)

300

Figure 35 Predicted Geometry from Linear-Elastic


Simulator Post-Frac Match of Figure 34 Treatment

Proppant Coverage lb/ft^2

0.787

Coal

operations used sand plugs or temporary bridge plugs. Major


drawbacks of these multi-stage treatments were the cost for
workover rig operations, damage caused by workover
operations (especially from placement of sand plugs or fluid
loss pills), and the ineffective cleanup caused by delay in
production until installation of the production tubing.
Introduction of 3 monobores in 1996 and the 2 7/8
monobores in 2002 alleviated many of the problems associated
with previous multi-staging operations. The major drawback
of the monobore multi-staging was use of sand plugs for
treatment isolation. If each treatment was cleaned up and
produced separately, then damage was created placing the
sand plug plus increased costs and cycle times from multiple
fracturing rig-ups and coil tubing operations. If treatments
were performed back-to-back without cleaning up each job,
then there was potential ineffective cleanup due to long shut-in
times of initial stages plus coordination of concurrent well
operations (logging, coil tubing, fracturing, etc). The
introduction of composite bridge plugs in 2003 removed the
damage caused by placing sand plugs; however these plugs
have only been available for the 3 and larger casing sizes.
Additionally, the composite bridge plugs did not address the
larger costs and cycle times from multiple fracturing rig-ups
and coil tubing operations.
Recognition in 2003 that fracture height growth was
insufficient to stimulate multiple sand intervals fostered the
desire to perform a larger number of targeted treatments. This
recognition was based on review of previous post-frac
production logging (PLT) data coupled with industry
acceptance that fracture height growth is often much smaller
than predicted from conventional linear-elastic fracturing
simulators. An example post-frac PLT conducted 12 months
after a 2002 Toolachee fracturing treatment is included as
Figure 34. The 100,000 gallon treatment placed 140,000 lbs of
20/40 and 16/20 light weight ceramic proppant at a rate of 25
bpm in this 2 7/8 monobore. Track 1 displays the original
open hole gamma ray, the cased hole gamma ray, area fill for
increased radioactivity, and compressional sonic time. Track 2
and 3 display the open hole calipers. Track 4 displays the deep
and shallow resistivities with area fill for filtration effects.
Track 5 shows gas and water effective porosities, and Track 6
shows the lithologies. The last track displays the temperature
and average spinner velocity during the well production at
~3.5 MMscf/day. Although nine perforated intervals (all shot
at 6 spf) were open during this treatment (shown as the black
area fills next to the depth track and outlined in black box), the
spinner shows that the fracture initiated from the middle
perforations (red box) with no fracture initiation from the top
or bottom intervals.

SPE 106051

SPE 106051

15

Similar analysis for all available post-frac PLTs that


summarize the analysis of post-frac production of 80
treatments is included as Figure 36. This figure shows that
prior to 2003, the average ratio of fracs/perforated intervals
was ~25% and the average gross height (top perforation to
bottom perforation) was ~120 ft. This means that the average
treatment targeted four sand intervals over a gross height of
120 ft. The figure also shows that prior to 2003, only 40-50%
of the perforated intervals would have significant post-frac
production (greater than 500 Mscf/day). After 2003, the
average treatment targeted only 1 interval over a gross height
of 35 ft resulting in 70-90% of the intervals contributing
greater than 500 Mscf/day. The 10-30% failures after 2003
are due to poor reservoir quality rather than poor fracture
height coverage.
300
240

60%

180

40%

120

20%

60

0%

19
96
19
97
19
98
19
99
20
00
20
01
20
02
20
03
20
04
20
05
20
06

Ratio

80%

Producing Intervals/Perforated Intervals


Fracs/Perforated Intervals
Avg Gross Ht per Frac

Gross Height per Frac (ft)

100%

CASE HOLE GAMMA

GAPI

200

Since many of the perforated intervals would be expected


to produce without fracturing, this low percentage of
producing intervals suggests that multiple fracturing initiation
points are not being created. This is also observed when
reviewing the average production rates of the perforated
intervals as seen in Table 5. For each multiple interval fracture
treatment, the intervals with the maximum production rates is
denoted as the 1st interval, the interval with the 2nd largest
production is denoted as the 2nd interval, while the remaining
intervals open during the treatment are denoted as the 3rd+
interval. Additionally, non-fractured intervals that were
perforated after the treatment are denoted as Post-Frac
interval. Table 5 shows that on average, the main fracture
initiation point contributes 2/3rds of the treatment production,
while it is rare that a 2nd fracture initiation point was created.

GAPI
SONIC

140

US/F

200

metres

OPEN HOLE GAMMA

DEPTH

Figure 36 - Analysis of Post-Frac PLTs When Treating


Multiple Perforation Intervals

practice has been to perforate each interval using 3 or 6 shot


per foot (spf) with 20+ perforations per interval.
The analysis of the post-frac PLTs, coupled with post-frac
production history matching, gave justification expanding
multi-staging efforts. Luckily this realization coincided with
initial trials of PPF that were ongoing in the United States.
This technology introduction into the Cooper Basin has been
described in detail previously11-12, so only a brief description
will be presented here. The application involves pumping
down 1 coiled tubing to abrasive jet three perforations (120
deg phased), immediately followed by pumping the fracturing
treatment down the annulus between the coil and the 4
casing. This technology has enabled the ability to perform
rapid multi-staging with a lower per treatment cost.
Contemporary multistage completions are now performed
routinely using this technology with as many as 7 fracturing
treatments per well completed in 5-6 days. An example of a
post-frac PLT from a well with three PPF treatments over a
gross interval of 150 ft is included as Figure 37. Tracks are the
same as for Figure 34; however the production rate at the time
of the PLT was ~6 MMscf/day. Additionally, the locations of
the jetted perforations are displayed with the red arrows. In
this example, three treatments were performed at 15 bpm,
placing a total of ~130k lbs of 20/40 intermediate strength
proppant. Analysis of the post-frac PLT indicated significant
contribution from each of the treatments, a result that is
superior to the pre-2003 ideology of performing a single
treatment with multiple perforated intervals.

COAL
0

RT

0.2

OHMM

2000

GAS
0.3

RS

CALIPER CALIPER

40 11 IN 6 6 IN 11

0.2

OHMM

2000

V/V

WATER
0.3

V/V

V/V

SPINNERS

QUARTZ
0 0

V/V

0 0

V/V

-10

110

TEMPERATURE

SHALE
1

245 DEGF 255

9200

9250

9300

9350

9400

Perforation Average Production Production


Interval
(Mscf/d)
Percentage
1st
1252
67%
2nd
430
23%
3rd +
187
10%
Post-Frac
173
Table 5 - Post-Frac PLT Production Breakdown
It should be noted that limited entry perforating has never
been trialled in the Cooper Basin, so it is not surprising that
multiple fracturing initiations were uncommon. Standard

Figure 37 - Post-Frac PLT of Well with 3 Pin-Point Fracs


Contemporary
multi-staging
challenges
are
in
identification of how much gross height can be covered by
individual treatments, plus candidate selection criteria to
prevent treating uneconomic intervals. Present viewpoint is to
continue with PPF of 4 completions when 3+ fracturing
targets are identified. In cases with only two stimulation
targets, trails of stimulation flapper valves in 2 7/8 monobores

16

are planned for 2007. These flapper valves will replace the use
of sand plugs for these applications.

Future Improvements Ideas


1. Better integration of fracturing data with 3-D
visualisation to improve understanding of localised
reservoir quality and stress regimes.
2. Expansion of zone coverage of abrasive jetting to
reduce near wellbore pressure loss and improve
treatment placement.
3. Improve design guidelines for use of 100 mesh for
pressure dependent leakoff cases and guidelines for
height recession leakoff cases.
4. Implement CO2 energised fluids to improve flowback
of treatments for depleted and normally pressured
intervals.
5. Trial treatment diversion techniques to attempt to
improve ability to treat multiple sand intervals in
marginal areas.
6. Implement stimulation flapper valves in 2 7/8
monobores for energised multiple treatment
operations.
7. Use fracture mapping technology to confirm fracture
growth behaviour for calibrating fracturing
simulations.
8. Improve predictability of post-frac production using
fracturing database of past fracturing performance
data.

Conclusions
1. Fracture gradients within the Cooper Basin vary
significantly. Gradients are controlled by a
combination of structural features and reservoir
quality. Poor post-frac production is observed when
gradients are greater than 1.1 psi/ft.
2. Mapping of frac gradients and stresses are helpful to
identify problem areas for risking future well
opportunities.
3. Near wellbore pressure loss values are caused by rock
fabric and high tensile strength, with no observable
trend with frac gradient or stress.
4. Waterfrac treatments are the recommended
stimulation procedure for formations with fracture
gradients greater than 1.1 psi/ft. Although many
techniques have been attempted, reservoir depletion
is the only successful techniques for preventing or
reducing fracture gradients greater than 1.1 psi/ft.
5. Diagnostic fracture injection tests are routinely used
to determine leakoff type and fracture complexity.
Data from the basin indicate a predominance of
height recession (38%), normal leakoff (32%), and
pressure dependent leakoff (28%).
6. After closure analysis determined KH is a useful tool
for predicting reservoir quality and post-frac
performance. A significant amount of scatter is
observed especially when the KH values are
interpreted to be below 5 md-ft.

SPE 106051

7.

Diagnostic fracture injection volumes have been


significantly reduced as compared to previous design
methodology. After closure KH values are now used
as the primary design parameter for predicting fluid
loss taking the place of using the injection fluid
efficiency.
8. Fluid polymer concentration has been dramatically
reduced and aggressive high temperature oxidiser
breaker concentrations dramatically increased. Fluid
formations take advantageous of the large cool-down
that is occurring due to confined fracture growth and
small fluid residence times within the fracture.
9. Nitrogen
energised
crosslinked
fluids
are
recommended whenever pore pressure gradients are
below 0.25 psi/ft and show significant improvements
in post-frac performance due to improved fracture
clean-up in depleted formations.
10. Recommended completion designs for future well are
2 7/8 monobores for single fracture completions or 4
completions for multi-stage operations.
11. Results from PPF operations have confirmed that
previous fracturing practices were inadequate for
stimulating multiple sand intervals. Evidence from
post-frac PLTs and production matching indicate that
fracture growth is much less than predicted from
simplistic linear elastic fracturing simulators.
Fracture height must be confirmed using independent
means other than fracture pressure matching.

Nomenclature
v = Vertical overburden stress
H = Maximum horizontal stress
h = Minimum horizontal stress
PPF = Pin-point fracturing (annular coiled tubing fracturing)

Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank the managements of both
Halliburton, Santos Ltd., and the JV partners (Origin Energy
and Delhi Petroleum) for permission to publish this material.
We would like to expressly thank Adam Hill and Sarah Howie
for assistance in creating some of the excellent graphics and
Carl Greenstreet, Simon Chipperfield, and Stuart Carnell for
proof reading drafts and providing suggestions. We would also
like to thank the many people and companies that have been
involved in the development of the fracturing technology
within the Cooper Basin.

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