The emerging Paradox Oil Play in southeastern Utah is among the most significant unconventional plays in the western USA. The mean total undiscovered oil resources within just the Pennsylvanian Cane Creek interval of the Paradox Basin are believed to exceed 215 million barrels. However, to date, less than 5% (~9 million barrels) of the total Cane Creek resource has been produced from fewer than 40 wells, and only approximately one-half of those are horizontal wells. More than 95% of production is from the central Cane Creek Unit (CCU). Natural fractures are a key feature of many production wells, but stimulation by induced hydraulic fractures is not consistently successful. We hypothesize that more effective production in this play will rely on better fundamental characterization, especially on better quantification of the state of stress. Approximately 110 ft of core, well logs, and a diagnostic fracture injection test (DFIT) were acquired from the State 16-2 well within the CCU. With these data, we applied two methods to constrain and clarify the state of stress. The first technique, the Simpson’s coefficient method, provides lower bounds on the two horizontal principal stresses and relies on only limited data. Alternatively, the viscoelastic stress relaxation (VSR) method is used to estimate the least horizontal principal stress, building on observations that principal stresses become more isotropic as the viscous behavior of a rock is more pronounced. Results of these two methods support the hypothesis that the state of stress in the CCU of the Paradox Basin is nearly lithostatic and isotropic. Other factors consistent with this hypothesis include high formation pore pressure, which tends to reduce the possible stress states by changing the frictional failure equilibrium; lack of induced fractures in the core, which should be present in the case of stress anisotropy; and interbedded halite layers, which given their high degree of ductility, probably lead to greater VSR for the entire sedimentary package.

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