Besides the tremendous boost to domestic drilling, shale plays have spawned an array of ancillary business opportunities owing in large part to the complexities inherent to evaluating and producing these dense rocks, which differ considerably from play to play.
Think data, for instance.
Shale plays in general have been dominated by the small to mid-size companies – even though the Big Guys have begun moving in.
Once on the shale fast track, however, many smaller players expanded quickly via acquisitions. Data management needs evolved, principally because of differing types of acquired data compared to other types of plays.
“Working with them as a consultant, I found it was not just how they were handling the data, but there were some unique data types because of the way they were drilling wells,” said AAPG member Jess Kozman, owner and lead consultant of Carbon Lifecycle Technology Consulting in Houston.
“They’re getting real time geosteering data from long reach horizontal wells,” he said, “and it’s important to discover the relationships between the stratigraphic position of the lateral and the completion and hydraulic fracturing information.”
A Critical Need
Kozman, who presented the paper “Emergence of New Data Types in Unconventional Plays” at the recent AAPG International Conference and Exhibition in Calgary, Canada, partnered with geo-navigation specialist Horizontal Solutions International to devise strategies for centrally managing stratigraphic position data so they could be distributed out to geotechnical professionals.
“In some cases this was also driven by the fact that there are a lot of consortia in the shale plays now, so a company not only needs to distribute information internally, but to determine what data are to be shared between partners in certain operating areas,” Kozman said.
“There was a need to work with things like entitlements and shared data bases,” he added, “and a lot of these companies didn’t have IT staff or data management departments used to working with these kinds of sophisticated delivery systems.”
Kozman said new data types they discovered that needed to be managed include True Stratigraphic Position (TSP) of a horizontal wellbore relative to a drilling target.
There also are data types that have become more critical as specific plays mature, such as the geospatial location of water takeout and disposal locations for hydraulic fracturing.
He explained the TSP log is a new data type that represents positive or negative deviation from the drilling target. It’s the relationship between the position of the wellbore and the stratigraphic target – and the analysis of that in real time as the well is being drilled.
“There’s not a standard or accepted way to store that information in a lot of geotechnical applications people are using,” Kozman said. “We had to calculate that value on the fly.
“The significance for shale operators is the success or failure of a given completion and hydro fracture set for one of these fracs they might run in a horizontal well,” he said.
“The success of a particular fracture could be dependent not only on the location relative to the drilling horizon but whether the wellbore is traversing it going updip or downdip in the particular section when they ran that frac,” he added.
“That information doesn’t lend itself to a lot of current data models.”
Horizontal wellbores often run thousands of feet, and the current modus operandi, particularly in the shales, is to perform multi-stage fracs at intervals along the borehole. Individual fracture zones perform differently in terms of initial production and decline rate.
“Operators discovered that in order to identify better zones to complete, they needed to understand not only where the zone was relative to the drilling target but how the wellbore was traversing the zone – whether it was parallel to stratigraphic dip or moving up or down section where they did that fracture,” Kozman said. “This has an impact on production and decline rates.
“That relationship between TSP and initial production data, that information had been kept in two completely different applications,” he noted. “We came up with a way to merge that information in a single map view and wellbore cross-section so the geologists and completion engineers could work together to discover the best way to complete the well.”
The solution is a combination of geosteering software and data management tools and strategies to manage the data in real time as they’re coming from the well.
“It’s a combination of software and services,” Kozman noted, “with the solution being 20 percent technology and 80 percent process, which includes such issues as who will be responsible for loading the final version, who will own the data when they come in.
“It’s a smaller scale application of all the best practices and lessons learned that have been developed with the larger major oil companies over the last decade or so.”