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Unconventional conference highlights technology, business practices


Saudi Aramco participated in the recent Unconventional Resources Technology Conference (URTeC) highlighting the rapid advancements in the company’s Unconventional Resources (UR) program, sharing best practices, and focusing on new technology in hydraulic fracturing.

Drilling and producing from unconventional, shale, carbonate, or tight sandstone reservoirs is different from conventional drilling. Unconventional rocks have their own unique characteristics and behaviors. For that reason, unconventional teams are integrated with experts in geomechanics, geology, geophysics, drilling, completion and stimulation, production, and reservoir engineering.

“When you consider that the success of the unconventional revolution is based primarily on two technologies — horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — you can understand why geomechanics and involving other geoscience disciplines is so important,” said Gang Han, a petroleum engineering consultant with Upstream, Aramco Services Company (ASC). Han served as a member of the URTeC Technical Committee, chairing two geomechanics technical sessions.

This year, that subject became the largest program among the 14 conference themes with 10 sessions, featuring 45 technical presentations. Nearly half of the geomechanics sessions were chaired by Saudi Aramco professionals.

Technical papers authored by Saudi Aramco’s Exploration and Petroleum Engineering Center – Advanced Research Center (EXPEC ARC) researchers and researchers from the Aramco Research Center in Houston examined topics such as replacing freshwater with seawater for hydraulic fracturing, fracturing fluid for high temperature applications, and modeling of hydraulic fracturing in shales. 

A session titled “Geomechanics: From Lab to Field” was co-chaired by Ali M. Momin, a supervisor with the North Jafurah Production Engineering Unit, Well Completion Operations & Production Engineering Department, who introduced a series of four papers examining multistage fracturing and stimulation techniques. Another session titled “From Perforation to Performance: Geomechanical Applications” was co-chaired by Saudi Aramco’s Ahmed H. Mubarak, subsurface integration team leader with the Emerging Unconventional Assets Department. Papers in that session examined production optimization using machine learning, an approach to stage-by-stage completion design, and a workflow for engineered perforations.

Technology is key

While technology is key to maximizing production and recovery, minimizing risk and making good business decisions go hand-in-hand with the latest technologies. With operators compiling vast amounts of data from thousands of wells, integrating multidisciplines and analyses is key. There is no more “trial and error” process for shale plays.

In the opening plenary session “The Shale Revolution — Getting Down to Business” Steve Winberg, assistant secretary for Fossil Energy with the U.S. Department of Energy, commented on the availability of big data analytics and machine learning to assist in faster feedback mechanisms so decisions could be made in real time at the wellhead — approaches that Saudi Aramco is capitalizing on.

‘Sweet spot’ mapping

Numerous technical advances have been applied to the Jafurah Basin in terms of seismic and attribute analysis for “sweet spot” mapping. “Jafurah has been successful because we have a diverse team that has brought a lot of experience and insight,” observed Mubarak.

ASC Upstream hosted the conference for Saudi Aramco personnel with support from Staffing Services and Public Affairs. URTeC is a collaborative effort by the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), and the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG). Saudi Aramco’s continued program involvement and diamond-level sponsorship was recognized by the organizations. 

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