The post-fracture pressure decay (PFPD) technique is a low-cost method allowing for stage-by-stage hydraulic fracture characterization. The analysis of the PFPD data is complex, with data affected by both hydraulic fracture and reservoir properties. Available analysis methods in the literature are oversimplified; reservoir or fracture properties are often assumed to be constant along the horizontal well, and therefore changes in the trend of pressure decay data are attributed to hydraulic fracture or reservoir properties only. Moreover, methods analogous to those applied to the analysis of conventional diagnostic fracture injection tests (DFITs) are often used and ignore critical mechanisms involved in main-stage hydraulic fracture stimulation.

A conceptual numerical simulation study was first conducted herein to understand the key mechanisms involved in main-stage hydraulic fracturing. An analytical model was then developed to account for the dynamic behavior of the hydraulic fracture, leakoff, proppant distribution, multiple fractures, and propped- and unpropped-closure events. The analytical model is cast in the form of a new straightline analysis (SLA) method that provides stage-by-stage estimates of the ratio of unpropped fracture surface area to total fracture surface area. The SLA method was validated against numerical simulation results. Moreover, to account for the variation of reservoir properties along the horizontal well, the PFPD model is integrated with DFIT-flowback (DFIT-FBA) tests, performed at some points along the lateral, to obtain a reliable stage-by-stage hydraulic fracture and reservoir characterization approach. The practical application of the proposed integrated approach was demonstrated using PFPD and DFIT-FBA data from a horizontal well completed in 22 stages in the Montney Formation.

The numerical simulation study demonstrated that the use of proppant and injection into multiple clusters (creating multiple fractures) results in multiple closure events. The closure process may start early after the pump-in period at a pressure significantly higher than the minimum in-situ stress. Using DFIT-based analytical models, which ignore the presence of proppant, causes significant errors in hydraulic fracture and reservoir property estimation. The PFPD field data examined herein exhibited a similar pressure trend to the numerical simulation cases. The ratio of unpropped fracture surface area to total fracture surface area was determined stage by stage using the PFPD SLA method, constrained by DFIT-FBA data. Engineers can use this information to optimize the hydraulic fracture stimulation design in real time, optimize the well spacing, and forecast the production. The cost and time advantages of this diagnostic method make this approach very attractive.

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