High Resolution Diffraction Imaging of Natural Fracture Zones in Unconventional Shale Reservoirs for Well Placement Optimization

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014

$150K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Z-terra Inc.
17171 Park Row Suite 247
Houston, TX 77084
Principal Investigator, Firm POC

Abstract

In 2000, shale gas represented just 1 percent of American natural gas supplies. Today, it is 30 percent and the percentage keeps increasing. The technology to drill and fracture the shale formations is now exported to the rest of the world, increasing the national oil and gas reserves in many other countries. The thickness of the shale formations is often just a few hundred feet, so new high-resolution technologies are needed to visualize the structure and the natural fracture distribution and orientation in these thin shale layers. Current research in the field of seismic depth imaging has identified a new approach to image with super-resolution small scale faults, pinch-outs, salt flanks, reflector unconformities, in general any small scattering objects, by using diffraction imaging as a complement to the structural images produced by reflection imaging. By identifying the areas with increased natural fracture density, the reservoir engineers can design an optimal well placement program that targets the sweet spots, areas with increased production, and minimizes the total number of wells used for a prospective area. This Research and Development project will develop a high-resolution imaging technology based on advances in depth migration using Diffraction Imaging designed to enhance the definition and resolution of oil reservoirs, and in particular the imaging of small scale fractures in shale reservoirs. High resolution imaging of the small scale fractures in shale reservoirs like Eagle Ford, Bakken, Niobrara, Utica and Woodbine, reduces the field development cost and improves the production and recovery efficiency, by imaging and delineating the areas with high fracture field density, associated with increased oil and gas production in unconventional shale reservoirs. It also decreases the environmental impact of developing the field by using fewer wells to optimally produce the reservoir. This technology does not exist in the industry and is a fundamental revolutionary advance in any seismic processing system that images 3-D prestack data for reservoir characterization of the unconventional oil and gas geological structures. Commercial Application and Other Benefits: High resolution imaging of the small scale fractures in shale reservoirs like Eagle Ford, Bakken, Niobrara, Utica and Woodbine in the US, and Horn River, Monteny and Utica in Canada improves production and recovery efficiency, reduces field development cost and decreases the environmental impact of developing the field by using fewer wells to optimally produce the reservoir. This technology does not exist in the industry and is a fundamental revolutionary advance in any seismic processing system that images 3-D prestack data for imaging complex geological structures which are the focus of modern oil-and-gas exploration.