The completion design process for most horizontal wells in shale reservoirs has become a statistical evaluation process, rather than an engineering-based process. Our paper presents an alternative approach using an engineering approach to define the reservoir properties and the effectiveness of the fracture treatments. We then use these results in an economic analysis that allows the engineer to be predictive with respect to how capital is spent in the completion process.

This paper presents a methodology for both the evaluation of the reservoir and the design of the well completion where the engineer can make economic decisions and determine the change in the return on investment as a function of the change in capital expenditure. The engineer can then be able to “optimize” the completion and fracture treatment designs based on Net Present Value, Return on Investment or any other economic parameter desired. We use a rate transient analysis approach to estimate reservoir and fracture properties. We present case histories in the paper, and the interpretation of the production analyses of these case histories yields information about the formation permeability and the effective lengths and number of hydraulic fractures created during the completion process.

With knowledge of the reservoir and fracture properties in hand, the engineer can then determine the “optimum” completion design for future wells. This understanding can be achieved much quicker and for much less money than the cost to drill the number of wells necessary to make statistical analysis meaningful. The results of the case histories indicate that many completion designs are not in the “optimum” range. Too much capital is being spent increasing stage count when it should be going to increased effective length. The focus on early-time production has ignored the effect that more fractures has on ultimate recovery.

The results and conclusions in this paper will run contrary to much of the direction most unconventional completion designs have been evolving over the past 5 to 10 years. A much greater emphasis on achieving increased effective lengths will be demonstrated and that increased stage count can prove detrimental to economic success over the well's life. Processes in the paper will also prove valuable for smaller operators that do not have a large well counts that are usually required to achieve a meaningful statistical evaluation.

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