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SPE/ISRM 78202

Coupled Geomechanics-Fluid Flow Modeling: Effects of Plasticity and


Permeability Alteration
D.P. Yale, SPE, ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company.
Copyright 2002, Society of Petroleum Engineers Inc.
This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE/ISRM Rock Mechanics Conference held
in Irving, Texas, 20-23 October 2002.
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Abstract
Yale et. al.1 showed significant differences between
uncoupled reservoir simulations of a highly compressible
(but elastic) reservoir and the same model run with
deformation and fluid flow coupled together. This paper
utilizes a similar model but investigates the effect of plasticity
of the reservoir rock and alteration of permeability with
deformation on these coupled simulations.
The coupled simulations show that plasticity significantly
increases the compressibility of the rocks and the compaction
drive energy of the reservoir. The initial stress state of the
reservoir is shown to have a large effect on the degree of
plasticity and the degree of depletion for the same amount of
fluid withdrawal and the same rock properties.
Modeling the change in permeability with deformation of
plastic sands shows an extremely large effect on near wellbore
pressure drawdown and deformation over normal reservoir
simulations. The coupld geomechanis-fluid flow simulations
show very strong interaction between pressure drawdown,
plastic strain, and permeability.
Introduction
Numerical simulation of flow in and from petroleum
reservoirs is done to predict production so that optimal
development plans for the reservoir can be developed. The
more accurately the models represent the physics of the
problem, the more useful the prediction made from the models
can be. Most developments in numerical reservoir simulation
have revolved around accurate modeling of fluid properties

and interactions and accurate representation of the storage and


transmissibility properties of the porous geologic material.
In many reservoirs, however, the storage and transmissibility
properties of the reservoirs are strongly stress dependent and
therefore there values are coupled with the pressure and
flow of the fluids in the reservoirs. As such, numerical
simulation of these types of stress-sensitive reservoirs requires
the fluid flow equations from standard reservoir simulation to
be solved simultaneously (i.e. coupled with) the equations for
deformation of the porous media.
A number of different models have been developed to try and
couple geomechancial models with fluid-flow simulators1-6 .
One difficulty in doing these types of simulations is that in
addition to having to solve additional sets of non-linear
equations (flow and deformation), a much larger volume of
rock must be simulated (reservoir, overburden, underburden,
sideburden) than in fluid flow only simulations. The increased
computational effort (or decreased model resolution) requires
a good understanding of the geologic conditions under which
geomechanics-fluid flow coupling is required. It also raises
questions as to the degree of coupling (partial coupling of
separate models versus simultaneous solution of flow and
deformation equations) and the degree on non-linearity (linear
elastic versus plastic, constant permeability versus stressdependent permeability, fracture flow, etc.) that needs to be
included to realistically simulate a particular reservoir.
Yale et. al.1 and Gutierez and Hansteen4 have contrasted
coupled and uncoupled simulations to understand when it is
beneficial to apply coupled modeling. In both cases, linear
elastic models of the reservoir were used to simulate the
deformation. Partial coupling (running a geomechanics
simulator every few timesteps of the fluid flow simulator to
feed back porosity/permeability changes to the fluid flow
simulator) has also been used to run large reservoir
simulations with reasonable computational times.
This paper investigates fully coupled simulations (flow and
deformation equations solved simultaneously at each timestep)
of more highly non-linear problems involving plastic yielding

D. YALE

of the reservoir rocks and permeability alteration due to


deformation and stress.
Coupled versus Uncoupled Formulations
Biot7 and Terzagi8 are credited with first bringing together
solid-fluid deformations and their interactions to describe
deformation and flow in porous, elastic materials. Biot7
showed the effect of solid and fluid deformations on flow and
pressure in porous media to be:
(k/)2p = (/t) + (1/Q)(p/t)

(1)

where k and are the permeability and viscosity, e is the


volumetric strain of the porous media, p is the fluid pressure,
and and Q are solid-fluid coupling terms.
Gutierrez and Hansteen4 show that Biots solid-fluid coupling
can be generalized and formulated in finite element terms as a
coupled fluid pressure equation:
p = (Cf + t + LTK-1L )1(pnt + Q + LTK-1F)

(2)

where Cf is the matrix of fluid compressibilities of the


reservoir, is the transmissibility matrix, pn, are the pressures
from the previous timestep, t is the timestep, and Q is the
fluid flux matrix, L is the solid-fluid coupling matrix, K is the
global stiffness matrix (i.e. constitutive model for the
deformation of the reservoir and overburden, underburden,
and sideburden), and F is the matrix of applied mechanical
loads to the system.
This can be compared to an uncoupled fluid pressure
equation in a fluid flow only simulation of:
p = (Cf + t + Cp )1(pnt + Q)

(3)

where Cp is the matrix of pore compressibilities.


The main difference in the first term in parentheses is that the
pore or rock compressibilities in the uncoupled formulation
are replaced with term involving the global stiffness matrix
and the solid-fluid coupling parameters in the coupled
formulation. Note that the last term in equation 2 involves not
only the stiffness or compressibility of the reservoir, but also
the interaction between the deformation of the reservoir and
the surrounding rocks. The fully coupled formulation also
differs in the second term in parentheses in that it has an
additional term involving the coupling matrix, stiffness matrix,
and applied loads to the system.
Therefore, we can see that uncoupled models whose only
coupling is to lump fluid and rock compressibilities together
in the total system compressibility term does not account for
the strong interaction that can occur between the fluid and
solid portions of the reservoir system. In addition, the

SPE/ISRM 78202

transmissibility matrix, can be a strong function of the rock


deformation, that leads to another level of coupling in
equation 2.
Critical State Constitutive Modeling
Although the basic coupled formulation as shown in equation
2 is completely general as to the constitutive model for rock
deformation, many current coupled models more often use
elastic or non-linear hyperelastic models1-5, 9 to allow
simulation in realistic timeframes. Plastic yielding of the
reservoir materials introduces a significant non-linearity and
increases computation times, however, many weak or
unconsolidated reservoir materials can undergo plasticity
during production.
For this study we used a critical state cap plasticity
constitutive model10,11 as implemented in the coupled
geomechanics-fluid flow finite element method (FEM) code
VISAGETM 2,12,13. Figure 1 shows the generalized critical
state model in p:q space (mean stress: differential stress
space) and the parameters utilized in this study. The
parameters represent an unconsolidated sand in a reservoir
approximately 12,000 feet total depth in 2000 feet of water.
Stress conditions are set so that the sand is overconsolidated
(i.e. initial conditions are such that the sand is in the elastic
region of figure 1 but changes in fluid pressure during
production will eventually bring the sand into plastic
yielding). The parameters of the model are similar to the Bsand in Crawford and Yale14.
Figure 1 also shows various initial stress states (see Table 1)
and constitutive model parameters of the reservoir that were
use in this study. In the elastic region the slope of the stress
path of the reservoir is governed only by the Poisson ratio of
the rock. As will be shown later, the slope of the stress path of
the reservoir after plasticity is highly variable and dependent
on the initial stress state of the reservoir. Table 1 and Figure 1
shows that fairly small differences in reservoir pressure
(except SP5) and differences in initial horizontal stress can
lead to very different initial stress states and can have a
dramatic effect on the evolution of plasticity and stress in the
reservoir during production.
Stress
Path

Total
Depth

SP 1
SP2
SP3
SP4
SP5
SP6

(feet)
12000
12000
12000
12000
12000
12000

Initial
Reservoir
Pressure
(psi)
8123
8203
8111
8534
9611
8171

h0/v0
0.61
0.40
0.95
0.75
0.98
0.50

Table 1 Initial stress state characterisation.

SPE/ISRM 78202

COUPLED GEOMECHANICS-FLUID FLOW MODELING:


EFFECTS OF PLASTICITY AND PERMEABILITY ALTERATION

Figure 2 shows the pore compressibility versus mean effective


stress (Cpp from Zimmermans15 nomenclature) of this sand
for various initial stress states shown in Figure 1 and the
variation in pore compressibility with the different hardening
parameters used in the study. All the data in Figure 1 is
calculated for stress paths with slope K=0.25=h/ v. We
see that different initial stress states affects the timing of the
onset of plasticity and the hardening affects the magnitude of
the pore compressibility after plastic yielding. Note that the
elastic Cpp is only 9 sip (10-6 psi-1) but increases to 20 to 45
sip once the plastic cap has been exceeded. The
compressibilities shown in Figure 2 are calculated with a
model that holds the ratio of horizontal to vertical stress
change constant during deformation. However, in the real
reservoir the evolution of horizontal and vertical stresses (i.e.
the stress path) will be dependent on a number of different
parameters and can not be predicted a priori.
The hardening parameter, H, was the only constitutive
parameter varied in the study. It is defined as:
H = (1 + e0)/ ( )

(4)

Where eo= initial void ratio of material, is the slope of the


plastic portion of the void ratio versus log mean stress plot and
is the slope of the elastic portion of the void ratio versus
mean stress plot. The lower the value of H, the more plastic
strain the material will experience for the same change in
effective stress in the plastic region.
In this study, the compressibilities, even in the plastic range
are more moderate than those used by Yale et. al.1 and
Gutierrez and Hansteen4 and are more indicative of those
found in unconsolidated reservoirs in the Gulf of Mexico,
offshore West Africa and some shallow heavy oil reservoirs.
Reservoir Model Parameters
The model used in this study is similar to the one used by Yale
et. al.1 The model is a 4900 element, 8200 node FEM model
simulating a 120 foot thick, 4000 foot radius reservir with a
single well in the center utilizing the VISAGETM code. The
FEM model includes an underburden layer 480 feet thick, a
sideburden out to 20,000 feet from the well, and 1080 feet of
overburden. A constant vertical stress is applied to the top of
the model to simulate the remaining 8020 feet of overburden
and 2000 feet of water column. A 2-D axisymmetric model
was used due to the symmetry inherent in a single well
model and to reduce computation time in these highly nonlinear problems.
The model utilizes 8-noded quadrilateral 2-D elements to
allow for higher order shape functions and employs a finer
mesh near the wellbore and near the reservoir-sideburden
interface to better capture the larger stress and strain gradients
in these areas. The outer edge of the model is a no-flow

boundary condition and the overburden, sideburden,


underburden were given near-zero permeability (10-12 Darcy)
for most of the test cases (the variable permeability cases had
no flow in the side-, under-, and over-burden).
Many runs were done with same mobility (ratio of rock
permeability over fluid viscosity) of 21 mD/cP (500 mD with
24 cP fluid). Most runs were tested at a production of rate of 5
TBD (thousand barrels/day) which lead to a significant
drawdown (wellbore fluid pressure minus farfield fluid
pressure) of over 2000 psi. Other runs were done with larger
mobilities to investigate less severe drawdowns and to get a
better handle on the effect of plasticity on average reservoir
depletion. Models were run at constant production rates (after
a 6 month ramp up in production) for 7 to 10 years.
Parametric Study
Over 60 different models were run and Table 2 shows the
parameters for those discussed in this paper. The parameters
studied mainly revolve around the investigation of the effects
of plasticity and permeability alteration on reservoir
performance. This study specifically looked for the effects of
coupled simulation that would not be seen in an uncoupled,
fluid flow only simulation or even a more loosely coupled or
partially coupled reservoir and geomechanics simulation.
The most critical parameter was found to be the initial stress
state of the reservoir and its influence on the stress path the
reservoir underwent during depletion.
Variations in
overburden/sideburden stiffness, mobility, and hardening were
also investigated.
Table 2 shows the parameters varied in the different model
runs. Model 21 was picked as the base case model to which
other runs could be compared and contrasted. Model 21 had
an initial stress state of SP4, a mobility of 20 mD/cP, a
hardening of 15, and overburden/sideburden/underburden
elastic stiffnesses as 1.7 times the reservoirs elastic stiffness.
The volumetrically averaged depletion (average reservoir
pressure at end of model minus pressure at the start of the run)
in each model at the end of each run was compared to the
depletion for a fluid flow only simulation. The pore
compressibilities for the fluid flow only simulations were set
to the elastic, uniaxial strain pore compressibility of the
reservoir where:
Cpp(uniax) = (1+)/(3(1-)) (Cpc Cr)

(5)

Where = Poisson ratio of the material. This is the generally


accepted compressibility used in reservoir simulation. As such,
all of the models which underwent some plastic deformation
had average depletions less than the uncoupled case due to the
extra drive energy of plastic deformation of the pore structure.
However, as will be shown, the degree of plasticity varied with

D. YALE

different initial stress states and hardening parameters and


therefore there were significant differences in the average
depletion experienced by different models. This is critical
because in an uncoupled standard reservoir simulator, all the
models would have the same depletion.
Run
#

Flow
Rate

Eover/
Ereser

Eside/
Ereser

7a
9
11
12
13
14
21
25a
26
27a
28
33
38
39
60
61
63

(TBD)
2.5
2.5
2.5
2.5
2.5
2.5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5

0.5
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7

1.0
1.0
1.7
1.7
1.0
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7

Mobility

mD/cP
1E+5
750
750
750
750
750
20.8
20.8
20.8
20.8
20.8
20.8
20.8
20.8
20.8
20.8
62.5

Hard.
Parm

Elas
Elas
30
Elas
15
15
15
15
15
15
15
10
15
15
15
15
15

Perm
alter

Y
Y

Y
Y

Initial
stress
state

SP4
SP4
SP4
SP4
SP4
SP4
SP4
SP2
SP3
SP1
SP5
SP4
SP1
SP5
SP6
SP4
SP4

Table 2 - Run Parameters


Results
Table 3 shows a summary of the results from the various runs.
The data includes the average depletion for an uncoupled run,
the average depletion for the coupled run, the wellbore
drawdown (initial reservoir pressure minus final wellbore
pressure), and the effective compressibility of the model
between various timesteps.
Run
#

Coupled
Avg
Depletion

Ratio
Coupl/
Uncoup
Depletion

(psi)

7a
9
11
12
13
14
21
25a
26
27a
28
33
38
39
60
61
63

481.1
2052
1768
2075
1579
1595
3036
2604
2940
2806
3486
2809
2086
2922
2737
2475
2480

Coupl
Draw
Down

(psi)

0.999
0.957
0.824
0.968
0.736
0.744
0.708
0.607
0.686
0.654
0.813
0.655
0.641
0.898
0.638
0.816
0.817

481
2080
1796
2104
1607
1623
5056
4624
4960
4826
5504
4828
16006
13422
4757
15890
4048

Eff Avg
Comp
(0 1.5 yrs)
-6
(10
-1
psi )
59.4
13.2
13.0
13.0
13.2
13.0
13.3
13.3
13.3
13.3
13.3
13.4
12.4
12.2
13.3
12.2
12.2

Table 3 - Results

Eff Avg
Comp
(4.5 7.5yrs)
-6
(10
-1
psi )
59.4
14.1
17.0
13.9
19.6
19.4
21.9
27.1
23.1
25.1
15.4
24.6
24.8
15.3
26.1
21.9
21.9

Initial
stress
state

SP4
SP4
SP4
SP4
SP4
SP4
SP4
SP2
SP3
SP1
SP5
SP4
SP1
SP5
SP6
SP4
SP4

SPE/ISRM 78202

The effective compressibility is calculated by dividing the


relative voidage (total production over the time period over
total fluid in the reservoir) by the change in average reservoir
pressure. Since the fluid compressibility was held constant at
3 sips for all the runs, the variation in effective
compressibility is a reflection of the variability of pore
compressibility due to stress path. Run 7a was a uncoupled,
calibration run utilizing an elastic but stiff reservoir with a
very compressible fluid. The value of average depletion was
within 0.1% of the analytic value (uncoupled simulation).
Elastic-Plastic effects
Run pairs 12/14 and 9/13 show the differences between an
elastic run (yield cap is set very high) and a plastic run. The
plastic runs show an average depletions of 74%/73%
respectively of the uncoupled solution and the elastic runs,
97%/96% respectively of the uncoupled. Plasticity lends
significant energy to the system. We also note that the elastic
runs has more energy than expected from the uncoupled
solution. As shown in Yale et. al.1 , this is due to the
effective stress path of part of the reservoir being greater
than the uniaxial path (see Figure 3) as will be discussed later.
We also note that if the sideburden is as stiff as the overburden
(1.7 times the stiffness of the reservoir), then there is a slightly
larger depletion (1%) than if the sideburden is the same
stiffness as the overburden. Yale et. al.1 investigated the
effects of overburden extensively and these results are
comparable to their results.
Run 21 (same stress path as 14) shows that stronger depletion
(higher production rates) leads to a larger difference between
the coupled and uncoupled runs (71% of uncoupled depletion).
Higher depletion leads to more of the reservoir undergoing
plasticity in Run 21 than in Run 14. The average effective
compressibilities across the reservoir in Table 3 show higher
compressibilities in Run 21 as compared to Run 14.
The degree of plasticity also has a strong effect. Run 11 and
Run 33 show the effects of models where the reservoir
material is less plastic and more plastic respectively than Run
14 and 21 respectively. A hardening factor of 30 leads to a
depletion of only 82% of uncoupled whereas a hardening
factor of 10 lead to 66% (as compared to a hardening factor of
15 which leads to 71% depletion).
This points to a need to understand the constitutive properties
of the reservoir rock very well. But if we characterize the
rocks plastic behavior in the laboratory, can we not just use
those properties directly in an uncoupled simulator just
as well?
Stress Path Effects
The next few figures show that the answer to the above
question is NO for many reservoirs which undergo some
plastic deformation during production. Reservoir engineering
in general and reservoir simulation models in specific relate

SPE/ISRM 78202

COUPLED GEOMECHANICS-FLUID FLOW MODELING:


EFFECTS OF PLASTICITY AND PERMEABILITY ALTERATION

fluid property changes (and rock property changes) to the fluid


pressure and temperature in the reservoir. However, rock
deformation is related to the stress tensor in the reservoir with
the fluid pressure just part of that equation:
ij = ij + pij

(6)

where ij are the total stresses acting on the porous material,


tension is positive and ij are the effective stresses and ij is
the Kroneker delta since the fluid pressure acts only on the
normal stresses7.
The initial stress state of the reservoir affects the total initial
stress and the properties of reservoir (and over-, side-, underburden) and their deformation affects the evolution of the total
and effective stresses during pressure depletion (or injection).
Figure 3 shows the affect of initial stress state on the evolution
of horizontal and vertical effective stresses in the reservoir
during depletion. We define the factor K as the ratio of the
change in horizontal effective stress over the change in
vertical effective stress. If the reservoir rock behaved
elastically and the reservoirs lateral boundary was fixed (no
sideburden, no lateral strain) and the reservoir depletion was
uniform across the entire reservoir, then the changes in
vertical and horizontal effective stresses would follow the
uniaxial line shown in Figure 3.
However, even in elastic reservoirs, Yale et. al.1 showed that
near the wellbore and near the edge of the reservoir, these
uniaxial strain assumptions are violated and the stress path can
deviate greatly from uniaxial depending on the degree of
arching (stiffness of overburden) and the severity of the near
wellbore drawdown. Yale et. al.1 showed that the effect of
these non-uniaxial conditions was that the effective pore
compressibility of the system was greater than expected (i.e.
the average depletion was less than expected) based solely on
the uncoupled simulation using uniaxial strain compressibility.
Runs 9 and 12 from this study shows this same effect with the
average depletion 3-5% less than predicted from an uncoupled
simulation and deviation from uniaxial strain at the reservoir
edge and near wellbore.
The largest effects, however, come not from elastic cases but
from cases where part of the reservoir undergoes plastic
yielding. Figures 3 and 4 show that initial stress state has a
huge effect on the stress path the reservoir follows after
exceeding the yield cap and on the ratio of horizontal to
vertical effective stress the reservoir undergoes during
depletion. We see that the larger the value of q (differential
stress) when the reservoir intersects the yield cap, the larger
the ratio of horizontal to vertical effective stress change
(Figure 3). This is represented in Figure 4 (p:q diagram) as a
bending over of the stress path in the plastic region for the
high q stress paths. Note however, that the slope of all the
stress paths in the elastic zone is the same, as it is controlled
by the elastic Poisson ratio of the material. (As shown by Yale

et. al.1 , there is an effect of overburden stiffness on effective


stress path in elastic reservoirs, but in our case the overburden
stiffness is the same for all runs in Figure 4).
Only SP3, which intersects the yield cap in the lowest
differential stress position has a post-yield stress path near the
uniaxial stress path ratio of K=0.25. It also appears that given
large enough depletions, that all the stress paths would
converge to a single line.
The most significant effect of this variability in post-yield
stress path and ratio of effective horizontal to vertical effective
stress change is seen in the differences in reservoir depletion
and effective compressibility for these various stress path runs.
This is shown in Table 3 and in Figures 5 and 6. Figure 5
shows that varying the initial stress state of the reservoir can
vary the pressure depletion in the reservoir significantly. This
is important because all the reservoir, fluid, and rock
properties are the same in these runs and any uncoupled run
(even if it accounted for a pressure dependent plastic
compressibility of the rock) would show the same depletion
along all these stress paths.
All the stress paths show the same pressure depletion (Figure
5) early in their production history where the rock is elastic.
They deviate from each other as plasticity occurs. We can see
that paths 2 and 3 go plastic before paths 4 which goes plastic
before path 5. But the differences in depletion are not just due
to the timing of the onset of plasticity.
Figure 6 shows the effective average compressibility of the
reservoir as a function of time for the various stress paths. The
elastic uniaxial strain pore compressibility is 10 sips, which
added to the fluid compressibility of 3 sips gives us the total
effective compressibility in the elastic range of 13 sips. Like
Figure 2 the compressibility increases as the stresses in the
reservoir exceed the yield cap. The maximum value of the
compressibility is lower than in Figure 2 since the stress path
in the reservoir is variable and only part of the reservoir
exceeds the yield cap.
We see that paths SP1 and SP5 go plastic at different times but
both reach similar maximum plastic effective compressibilities
of near 24. However, paths SP1, SP2, and SP3 all go plastic at
similar times but reach different total compressibility values.
This seems at odds with Figure 2 which showed that the
constitutive model predicted similar peak plastic
compressibilties for the different stress paths. The explanation
lies in Figure 3 which shows the changes in stress path ratio
(horizontal to vertical effective stress) for the different initial
stress states.
Path SP2 has the highest K factor, SP6 the next highest, then
SP1, SP4, and SP5, with SP3 the lowest. This is the same
order as the q value of their respective intersections with the
yield cap as shown in Figure 4. This is also the same order as

their effective compressibilities (SP2, SP1, SP3) as shown in


Figure 6. We are measuring effective compressibility as the
ratio of relative voidage to fluid pressure change. Neglecting
arching effects, the change in vertical effective stress is nearly
the same as the change in fluid pressure. However, the change
in horizontal effective stress is highly dependent on the plastic
yielding of the material. The stress paths with higher
differential stress at the initial yield cap lead to larger
horizontal effective stresses in the reservoir than those with
lower differential stresses at the yield cap.

D. YALE

SPE/ISRM 78202

6) the reservoir exceeds the yield cap around -0.006 axial


strain. We therefore model little permeability change (10%)
up to this point and then more dramatic change in the plastic
region as observed by Crawford and Yale14. We allow the
function to flatten out above 0.015 axial strain to avoid more
than an order of magnitude change in permeability.

Permeability function

As mentioned earlier, this is a critical point where fluid flow


only simulation is deficient in modeling flow in plastically
deforming materials. Uncoupled, fluid flow simulations are
only functions of the scalar reservoir pressure. However, it is
the full stress tensor that controls the deformation of the rock
and therefore the drive energy from the compaction of the
rock. The evolution of the stress tensor is dependent on a
variety of factors including the initial stress state of the
reservoir and its relationship to the initial yield cap of the
reservoir material.
The effect of initial stress state and subsequent stress path has
profound effects on total recovery. Figure 5 shows that if the
reservoir was limited to a maximum depletion of 2500 psi (or
if the bubble point of the reservoir was 2500 psi below initial
pressure), a reservoir starting at SP5 would reach that point
more than 3 years earlier than a reservoir starting at SP2 even
though both reservoirs have the same rock and fluid properties
and are being produced at the same rate.
Permeability Alteration
Crawford et. al.14,16,17 and others have shown dramatic effects
of deformation and plasticity on permeability. The effects of
decreases in permeability, especially near wellbore in high
drawdown wells, is well known but they are not often modeled
in standard reservoir simulation. Even when permeability
change is modeled, it is only modeled as a function of fluid
pressure rather than a function of tensor stress or tensor strain.
Crawford and Yale14 show that for an unconsolidated reservoir
sand, the permeability is strongly related to differential stress
and plasticity. They show there is only about a 10% change in
permeability for their B-sand in the elastic region increasing to
nearly a 75% decrease during plastic deformation before
showing some signs of flattening out. We have taken this
permeability response and input a similar function into our
fully coupled model. We have taken axial strain as the best
proxy for differential stress and input the function shown in
Figure 7. We find that for several of the stress paths (1, 2, 3, 4,

Horizontal Permeability (mD)

300

The effective compressibility is therefore larger for stress


paths with higher q due to differences in the mean effective
stress along the different stress paths. Stress paths SP2 and
SP6 go through stress paths that have larger changes in mean
effective stress for a given change in fluid pressure than paths
SP4 and SP3 due to their higher horizontal stresses.

250
200
150
100
50
0
0

-0.005

-0.01

-0.015

-0.02

Vertical Strain

Figure 7
Horizontal permeability function (reservoir layer only) used in
model runs with permeability alteration.

We have input this function into the FEM model used in the
rest of this study. We found that the permeability decrease
leads to exceptionally high near wellbore drawdowns due to
the near wellbore permeability drop and the constant
production rate.
Figure 8 shows drawdown in the near wellbore region and
Figure 9 the permeability change for various stress paths and
different periods of production. We note that for the strongly
elastic stress path 5, very little permeability change occurs
after 5 years. The figure also shows the drawdown (near
wellbore pressure minus the far-field reservoir pressure for
this figure) for the perm change case and a similar model with
no permeability change. Note the mild permeability change of
stress path 5 has only a small effect on the near wellbore
drawdown. However, for stress path 4, which goes plastic
earlier but otherwise is similar to stress path 5, there is a larger
permeability change as some of the near wellbore region has
gone plastic after 5 years. Path 1 shows an even larger near
wellbore drawdown associated with the larger permeability
changes due to more plasticity.
The drawdowns become unrealistically large when production
is taken to 7.5 years (greater than the reservoir pressure). In
reality, the production rate would have to have been

SPE/ISRM 78202

COUPLED GEOMECHANICS-FLUID FLOW MODELING:


EFFECTS OF PLASTICITY AND PERMEABILITY ALTERATION

significantly curtailed but it shows the dramatic change in


permeability that can occur with large near wellbore plasticity
caused by large near wellbore pressure changes.
We also tested the effect of varying mobility by increasing the
mobility of the reservoir fluid by a factor of 3 in run 61. We
note that the drawdown profile of run 61 (perm change but
initial mobility of 60) is similar to run 21 (no perm change but
mobility of 20).
Many reservoir engineers have recognized the death spiral
effect of the double coupling of permeability and stress in
the near wellbore region of high rate wellbores in
unconsolidated sand reservoirs. High production rates lead to
large near wellbore drawdowns. This in turn leads to stress
changes which can cause plastic strains in the reservoir rock
which decreases permeability. Trying to produce the reservoir
at the same rate with a zone of lower permeability material
around the wellbore leads to an increase in the drawdown
which leads to larger strains and further permeability
decreases. Accurate constitutive models of both deformation
and permeability are needed in a fully coupled model to
realistically predict the production rates that can be tolerated
by these types of formations without degrading the
permeability to the point of losing a significant portion of the
well productivity. In addition, as Crawford and Yale14 have
shown, much of the very large changes in permeability are
associated with non-recoverable, plastic deformation.
Blowing a well down quickly and then shutting it may allow
the near wellbore fluid pressures to recover but the near
wellbore plastic permeability decrease is irreversible.
Large near wellbore drawdowns can lead to wellbore or casing
failures due to high near wellbore rock strains. Near wellbore
vertical strains are 25% higher after 5 years of depletion for
run 38 (path 1, perm change) than for run 27a (path 1, no perm
change) due to higher near wellbore drawdown yet the average
reservoir depletion in run 38 is only 5% greater than run 27a
after 5 years.
Reservoir engineers have favored horizontal wells when
possible not only for their larger contact with the reservoir but
for their lower drawdowns. Lower drawdowns help allieviate
coning problems, relperm problems and other complications
arising from large pressure differentials across the reservoir.
However, we see that coupled modeling can show
where deformation due to large pressure differentials will be
a problem.
These problems are most severe and expensive in deep,
offshore wells where well cost and facility costs force fewer
wells and higher well rates than in other fields. However, the
cost of well failures and/or lower production rates due to
unforseen and often unpredictable deformation-fluid flow
coupling should drive us to take better advantage of coupled

models even with their added complexity and computational


costs.
Conclusions
This study has shown that in reservoirs which might undergo
plastic deformation, the very strong coupling between fluid
flow-fluid pressure-reservoir stress-rock deformation requires
models which realistically account for these relationships to
accurately predict reservoir response to production. We find
that the initial stress state of a reservoir and the stress path the
reservoir undergoes during depletion has a dramatic effect on
the degree to which plasticity affects the reservoir pressure
and permeability in the reservoir. We find that the reservoir
stress path post-yield is strongly affected by the position in
p:q space where the stress path intersects the yield cap. Also,
that this post-yield stress path has a strong influence on the
effective pore compressibility of the rock and overall reservoir
depletion and that these effects can not be predicted from just
the constitutive properties of the rock.
We often look at reservoir management from a perspective of
pressure/saturation/ production rate management but rarely
from the perspective of stress-strain management. For many
reservoirs, reservoir development and production plans should
include consideration for how stress management could
improve overall production from the reservoir while
minimizing workover/redrill costs. Reservoirs which may
undergo some plastic deformation during production are
critical to evaluate from a stress-management perspective
early in the development cycle since the effects of plasticity
are irreversible.
This study has focused on plasticity which could occur in
many unconsolidated/ friable/ or chalk reservoirs at moderate
depths but the general ideas translate to other stress-sensitive
reservoirs such as fractured reservoirs, shallow heavy oil
reservoirs and some HPHT reservoirs. As we drill deeper and
into higher pressure regimes, we run the risk that
classically hard rock reservoirs could undergo significant
deformation due to extremely high drawdown and depletion.
Coupled geomechanics-fluid flow models and modeling
concepts abound but are not yet in the mainstream of
reservoir engineering.
Acknowledgements
I would like to thank the management of ExxonMobil
Upstream Research Company for permission to publish this
work and Brian Crawford and Denis Schmitt for many helpful
discussions during this study.
Metric Conversion Factors
cP [centipoise] x 1.000000 E-03 = Pa sec
mD [millidarcy] x 9.869233 E-16 = m^2
psi [lbf/in^2] x 6.894757 E+03 = Pa
ft [feet] x 3.2808 = m

Nomenclature
= 1 (Cr/Cbc) = Biot alpha parameter
Cr = compressibility of rock matrix or grains
Cbc = compressibility of rock skeleton (bulk compressibility)
Cf = compressibiliy of reservoir fluid
Cf = the matrix of fluid compressibilities of the reservoir
Cpc = pore compressibility (under confining pressure change)
Cpp = pore compressibility (under pore pressure change)
Cpp(unix) = pore compressibility (uniaxial strain conditions)
= volumetric solid strain
e = void ratio = /(1)
e0 = initial void ratio
= porosity
F = matrix of applied mechanical loads to the system
H = cap plasticity hardening parameter
K = global stiffness matrix
K = h/ v = (yy +xx )/2zz
k = permeability
= slope of elastic portion of e:ln mcurve
= slope of plastic portion of e:ln mcurve
L = solid-fluid coupling matrix
= fluid viscosity
sip = microsip = 10-6 psi-1
= Poisson ratio
p = fluid pressure
p = mean effective stress = m
pn = fluid pressures from the previous timestep
Pco= pre-consolidation pressure (yield cap parameter)
1/Q = ( - )Cr + Cf = Biot coupling term
Q = fluid flux matrix
q = differential stress = zz - (yy +xx )/2
ij = ij component of total stress tensor
ij= ij component effective stress tensor
m = mean effective stress = (xx +yy +zz )/3
t = FEM timestep
t = time
=transmissibility matrix
References
1. Yale, D.P., Lyons, S.L. and Qin, G.: "Coupled GeomechanicsFluid Flow Modeling in Petroleum Reservoirs: Coupled versus
Uncoupled Response," presented at the 2000 4th North
American Rock Mechanics Symposium, Seattle, 31 July-3 Aug.
2. Koutsabeloulis, N.C. and Hope, S.A.: "Coupled" Stress/ Fluid/
Thermal/
Multi-phase
Reservoir
Simulation
Studies
Incorporating Rock Mechanics," presented at the 1998
SPE/ISRM Eurock '98: Rock Mechanics in Petroleum
Engineering, Trondheim, July 1998, SPE 47394.
3. Settari, A. and Walters, D.A.: "Advances in Coupled
Geomechanical and Reservoir Modeling With Applications to
Reservoir Compaction," SPE Journal (Sept. 2001) 334.
4. Gutierrez, M. and Hansteen, H. Fully-coupled analysis of
reservoir compaction and subsidence, presented at EUROPEC
94, London, July 1994, SPE 28900.
5. Stone, T., Gowen, G., Papanastasiou, P., and Fuller, J. Fully
coupled geomechanics in a commercial reservoir simulator,

D. YALE

SPE/ISRM 78202

presented at the SPE European Petroleum Conference, Paris,


France, October 2000, SPE 65107.
6. Gutierrez, M., Lewis, R.W. and Masters, I.: "Petroleum Reservoir
Simulation Coupling Fluid Flow and Geomechanics," SPE
Reservoir Evaluation and Engineering (June 2001) 164.
7. Biot, M.A.: "General Theory of Three-dimensional
Consolidation," J. Appl. Phys. (1941) 12, 155.
8. Terzaghi, K. Die berechnung der durchlassigkeitsziffer des tones
aus
dem
verlauf
der
hydrodynamischen
spannungsercheinungen Akademi der Wissenchaften in Wien,
Sitzungsberichte, Mathematisch-naturwissenschaftliche Klasse,
Part Iia. 132, 124-138.
9. Settari, A. et. al. Geotechnical Aspects of Recovery Processes in
Oil Sands, Canadian Geotechnical J. (1993) 30, 22.
10. Schofield, A.N. and Wroth, C.P.: Critical State Soil Mechanics
McGraw-Hill, London (1968).
11. Muir Wood, D.: Soil Behavior and Critical State Soil Mechanics,
third edition, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1994)
12. VISAGE Technical Manual, VIPS, Ltd., 2001
13. Koutsabeloulis, N.C.: "Numerical Modeling of Soft Reservoir
Behavior During Fluid Production," Geotechnical Engineering
in Hard Soils-Soft Rocks, Balkema, Rotterdam (1993).
14. Crawford, B. R. and Yale, D. P. Constitutive Modeling of
Deformation and Permeability: Relationship between Critical
State and Micromechanics, presented at SPE/ISRM Rock
Mechanics Conference, Irving, Texas, October 2002, SPE 78189
15. Zimmerman, R. Compressibility of Sandstones, Elsevier,
Amsterdam (1991)
16. Crawford, B.R., Hutcheon, R., Smart, B.G.D. and Yale, D.P.:
"Coupled Mechanical Deformation and Fluid Flow in
Experimentally Yielded Granular Reservoir Materials," paper
presented at the 1999 IXth International Congress on Rock
Mechanics, Paris, Aug. 25-28.
17. Yale, D.P. and Crawford, B.R.: "Plasticity and Permeability in
Carbonates: Dependence on Stress Path and Porosity," paper
SPE 47582 presented at the 1998 SPE/ISRM Eurock '98: Rock
Mechanics In Petroleum Engineering, Trondheim, July 8-10.

COUPLED GEOMECHANICS-FLUID FLOW MODELING:


EFFECTS OF PLASTICITY AND PERMEABILITY ALTERATION

SPE/ISRM 78202

55

Reservoir Mechanical Properties


E=3.0E+05 psi
= 0.2
0 = 0.3
H = 10, 15, or 30
M = 1.42
Pco=3500 psi

4000

3000

Over-, Side-, Under-burden


Properties
(same as reservoir except)
E = 1.7 or 1.0 X Eres
0 = 0.1
Pco = 35000 ps i

Critical State Line

Yield Cap

SP2

2000

SP6

Plastic
Region

SP1

1000
SP4

Elastic
Region

Pore Compressibility (usips)

Q (differential stress [psi] )

5000

0
500

1000

Path SP4 Hard=10

35

Path SP2
Path SP3 Hard=15

Path SP4

25

Path SP4 Hard=30

15

SP3
SP5

45

1500

2000

2500

3000

3500

5
1500

4000

P (mean stress [psi] )

2500

3500
4500
Mean stress (psi)

5500

Figure 1
Constitutive model parameters for the overconsolidated
reservoir sand and initial stress states used in FEM modeling

Figure 2
Constitutive model pore compressibility (Cpp) as a function of
mean stress for the various initial stress states and hardening
factors used in this study

0.6
4000

K factor

SP6
0.4

SP1
SP4

0.3

SP5

SP3

ElasticUniaxial Strain

Q (differential stress [psi] )

SP2

0.5

3000

SP2

2000

SP6
SP1
SP4

0.2
0

1000

2000

3000

SP3

SP5

Elastic
Region

4000

Distance from wellbore (ft)

Plastic
Region

1000

0
0

500

1000

1500

2000

2500

3000

3500

4000

4500

5000

P (mean stress [psi] )

Figure 3
Effect of initial stress state and stress path on K factor at the end
of the run (K=ratio of horizontal to vertical effective stress change
from depletion) as a function of distance from the wellbore

Figure 4
Stress paths in the reservoir sand during depletion for various
initial stress states. Note the change in slope of the stress paths
once the yield cap is exceeded.

10

D. YALE

Reservoir Energy

Tim e (yrs)
10

27

Pressure depletion (psi)

-500

Run25
SP2

-1000

Run27
SP1

-1500
-2000

Run28
SP5

-2500

Run26
SP3

-3000

Effective total compressibility


(10-6 psi-1)

Reservoir Depletion
0

SPE/ISRM 78202

25

Run25
SP2

23

Run27
SP1

21
19

Run28
SP5

17
15

Run26
SP3

13
11
0

-3500

10

Time (yrs)

Figure 5

Figure 6

Reservoir depletion (current pressure initial pressure, as


measured 250 feet from wellbore) versus time for various stress
paths

path 5
4yrs

Permeability Change

Reservoir drive energy as represented by effective total


compressibility (fluid + pore) as a function of stress path and time

Effect of permeability alteration on drawdown

250

200

path 4
4 yrs

3126 vs. 2078

path 1
4 yrs

150

100
13530 vs. 2085

50

path 4
low
mob
7.5 yrs
path 4
7.5 yrs

14050 vs. 2089

Near wellbore drawdown (psi)

5000

2394 vs. 2094

Permeability (mD)

path 1
4 yrs

4000

3000

path 4
no perm
change

2000

path 4
7.5 yrs

1000

0
0

500

1000

1500

Distance from wellbore (ft)

2000

path 1
7.5 yrs

Figure 8
Permeability change as a function of distance from the wellbore
for various stress paths and various times. Number near curves
represents drawdown (in psi) for model with permeability
variation vs. model with constant permeability

path 5
4 yrs

50

100

150

200

path 4
low mob
7.5 yrs

Distance from wellbore (ft)

Figure 9
Near wellbore drawdown as a function of distance from wellbore
for various stress paths and mobilities