In many of the active shale plays, the extremely low permeability of the shale means simple, bi-planar hydraulic fractures do not provide enough surface area to make an economic well. In these cases, the optimal, economic completion requires stimulation of the natural fracture system - often called increasing the ‘complexity’ of the stimulation. A number of different multi-well completion techniques have been proposed to enhance shale complexity. The ‘simul-frac’ technique is where companion wells are stimulated at the same location at the same time, whereas the ‘zipper-frac’ technique employs companion wells that are stimulated in staggered locations at the same time. The intention with these techniques is to alter either or both the stress field and the pore pressure field to enhance the shearing of natural fractures.

In this paper, we present the results of a numerical study to quantitatively evaluate the effectiveness of multi-well completion techniques, particularly the ‘modified zipper-frac’ technique, to optimize shale completions. The study includes a parametric study of the effects of in-situ stress conditions, natural fracture orientation and fracture friction, and hydraulic fracture layout on changing near and far-field natural fracture shear (complexity). Changes in the stress field, particularly shear stress, are considered the primary means of increasing fracture complexity. The quantitative results of the study provide a means to optimize the application and design of different multi-well completion techniques as a function of the presented parameters. Optimized completion designs mean lower well costs, greater production and, ultimately, improved well economics.

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