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SPE 81487

SHAYBAH-220: A Maximum Reservoir Contact (MRC) Well and Its Implications for
Developing Tight Facies Reservoirs
N.G. Saleri, S.P. Salamy, H.K. Mubarak, R.K. Sadler, A.S. Dossary, and A.J. Muraikhi, Saudi Aramco

Copyright 2003, Society of Petroleum Engineers Inc.

completions to minimize the potential for early gas
This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE 13th Middle East Oil Show & Conference breakthrough while achieving economically-desirable
to be held in Bahrain 5-8 April 2003.
production rates. The field went on production in July 1998.
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of
information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as
presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to
correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any 220
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Abstract 378
This paper presents drilling, completion, well performance,
and reservoir characterization results of a recently-drilled 0
Maximum Reservoir Contact (MRC) well in the Shaybah
Field with a total of eight laterals and an aggregate reservoir
contact of 12.3 kms (7.6 miles). The well was drilled as part
of a pilot program to evaluate both the practical challenges and
the reservoir performance impact of MRC wells.
The results to date on three MRC wells in Shaybah indicate Figure 1- Study Area Showing Field Development using
significant gains in well productivities as well as reductions in horizontals and multi-laterals.
unit development costs. A useful by-product of MRC drilling
is the enhancement achieved in reservoir characterization. Shaybah Geology and Tectonic Setting: The field is
These benefits point to MRC wells as disruptive technologies characterized as a gently folded northeast-southwest trending
(DTs)1,2 which have far reaching implications for developing anticline consisting primarily of cretaceous age sandstones,
tight-facies reservoirs. shales, and carbonates. The reservoir consists of ruddist build-
ups that vary laterally into barrier and shelf slope facies3.
Introduction While matrix porosity is generally high, with an average of
25%, and does not vary laterally; permeability is facies-
Field History: The Shaybah field, discovered in 1968, in the dependent and exhibits spatial variability. In south Shaybah
Rub al-Khali desert of Saudi Arabia, is approximately 13 km where SHYB-220 is located typical permeabilities range from
(8 miles) wide and 64 km (40 miles) long. The surface terrain 5 to 10 mD. Three-D seismic data show the Shuaiba reservoir
is comprised of salt flat areas known as sabkhahs and to contain a number of faults. These faults and fractures have
mountainous sand dunes (up to 200 meters high). Because of been identified from openhole logs and are most prevalent in
its rugged character, the field is developed from the flat the northern part of the reservoir.
sabkhahs necessitating highly directional drilling to reach
the targets.
The oil in the Shuaiba formation is Arabian Extra Light with Historical Performance: The field performance to date has
an average API of 42 and a solution GOR (Gas-Oil-Ratio) of been in line with pre-development forecasts and by in large
750 SCF/STB. validated the fundamental assumptions regarding the reservoir.
Figure 1 represents a top view of the southern part of the field Poduction logs conducted on over 60 one-km horizontal wells
in the area of interest. It was developed in the mid 1990s using indicated that 85% of the one-km horizontal sections have a
one-km horizontal wells (single-lateral) targeting the Shuaiba measurable and generally uniform contribution to flow4.
reservoir. The presence of a large overlying gas cap and a Concerns that the heel-portion of horizontal completions made
relatively weak aquifer dictated the use of horizontal a disproportionate contribution were determined to be untrue.
2 SPE 81487

Furthermore, simulation results indicated that in the low 9

permeability non-fractured areas, such as south Shaybah, 8

longer horizontal sections will outperform the one-Km single 3 Km
laterals in terms of cumulative production and Gas-Oil-Ratio 7

(GOR) (Figure 2). 6

2 Km
40 32000 5
1 Km

3 KM 3
30 24000
Cum Oil 2

Cum Oil, MMSTB

2 KM
20 16000 0
0 10 20 30 40 50
Time, Months

1 KM Figure 4: North Shaybah Area: Cumulative Production

10 8000
versus Time at Varying Reservoir Contact (Five wells).
1 KM 2 KM 3 KM

0 0
1 Km
1998 2002 2006 2010 2014
Time, Years 1200 1 Km

Figure 2: Simulation Prediction of Cumulative Oil and

GOR Performance with Varying Reservoir Contact. 2 Km
3 Km

Production tests conducted on 1, 2, and 3-km horizontal wells 900

indicated a strong correlation between PI and reservoir 800

contact4 and have laid the foundation for the application of
MRC wells in Shaybah. Figures 3, 4 and 5 reflect the impact 700

of increasing reservoir contact on cumulative production and 600

GOR for several wells in south and north Shaybah, 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

6.0 Figure 5: North Shaybah Area: GOR versus Cumulative
3.7 Km Production at Varying Reservoir Contact (Four wells).
1 Km

1 Km
MRC Wells: Definition, Objectives, and Issues

3.0 MRC wells are defined as having an aggregate reservoir

contact in excess of 5 kms, through a single or multi-lateral
2.0 configuration. The distinction between an extended-reach
horizontal and MRC well is noteworthy. Whereas the well
1.0 trajectory fom surface to total depth is the key-defining
attribute of extended-reach wells (such as those reported for
0.0 Wytch Farm5), an MRC well is specifically keyed to the extent
0 6 12 18 24 30 36 42 48 of the contact length with the target formation. MRC wells are
Time, Months
designed mainly to maximize reservoir contact in formations
Figure 3: South Shaybah Area: Cumulative Production and to achieve well productivities much higher than those of
versus Time at Varying Reservoir Contact (Three wells). limited contact horizontal wells (e.g. 1-km).
The consequences of MRC wells as a disruptive technology to
favorably alter life-cycle unit development and operating costs
for tight-facies reservoirs are obvious (due to less number of
wells). This assumes that operational complexities (drilling,
well intervention, etc.) and resultant costs can be effectively
managed. What is less certain, however, is the ultimate-
recovery implications of MRCs which will invariably depend
on reservoir specifics (heterogeneity, compartmentalization,
fracture occurrences, etc.)
Just like horizontal drilling technologies in the 1980s forced a
re-assessment of industry paradigms, MRC wells promise to
usher an era where the old rules are no more sufficient6,7.
SPE 81487 3

Wells with here-to-fore unforeseen geometries, scale of Drilling Performance

reservoir contact, and downhole completions will necessitate a
fresh re-engineering effort. Most notably, some important Drilling Operation:
questions that need to be addressed, debated, and resolved are SHYB-220 was spudded on March 07, 2002. Casing sizes
as follows: progressed from 24 to 9 5/8-in (using two intermediate strings
1. What will be the drilling practices (technology, 18 5/8 and 13 3/8-in). A 8 -in hole was directionally drilled
design, mud systems, circulation methods, with 80 pcf OBM (oil base mud) to stabilize and avoid
remediation) required to minimize well-damage and sloughing the shale above the reservoir. A 7-in liner was then
hence allow attainment of theoretically achievable run and cemented to isolate the shale and the gas zone.
well productivities with longer contact? The motherbore (3-km) was drilled successfully from 6230 ft
2. What are the trade-offs among well complexity to 16026 ft MD with 77 pcf (255 psi over balance)
(geometry, completion), reliability, well intervention, water/polymer mud in 11 days. A total of three bits were
monitoring, and costs? What are the primary drivers? used. The rate of penetration in the motherbore was 57.1 ft/hr
Are there asymmetric priorities? in the first kilometer compared with 51.8 and 41.3 ft/hr in the
3. What are the risks, operational as well as reservoir- second and third kilometers, respectively.
performance-wise, in applying MRC wells in tight- The following table summarizes the length, rotating time and
facies reservoirs? What are the unintended the ROP in each lateral:
consequences of achieving maximum
reservoir contact? Total
TD (MD) Lemgth (ft) Rotating
SHYB- 220 Well Design
MB 16026 9796 210 46.6
The well design (Figure 6) consists of the following:
Motherbore parallel to the structure (3-km long). L-1 16150 5350 137 39.1
Two multilaterals (L-1, L-2) parallel to the L-2 16246 5951 150 39.7
motherbore. L-3 12755 3052 61.5 49.6
Six fishbone type laterals (L-3, L-4, L-5, L6, L7, L-8)
planned at 30 from the motherbore. L-4 11256 2255 40 56.4
L-5 11301 2964 60 49.4
Proposal Lateral #2
Survey Motherbore
11275 3597 58.5 61.5
9564 2537 43 59.0
Lateral #3 L-8 11237 4882 63.5 76.9
Lateral #1

Lateral #5
TOTAL 40,384 ft
Lateral #7
Lateral #4 Data Acquisition:
Lateral #6 The motherbore was logged using a LWD tool and a
Lateral #8 MWD/GR was run during the drilling of the laterals. Repeat
sections were acquired across both high and low porosities to
characterize the different invasion characteristics. The LWD in
the motherbore indicated the average porosity and water
saturation to be 25% and 15%, respectively. Porosity was
calculated with a weighted-average of the density-neutron
Figure 6: SHYB-220 Well Design (Plan vs. Actual) tools. Permeability was estimated throughout the logged
interval based on Shuaiba-specific transforms.
The target depths for the horizontal sections (-4,700 ft ss) LWD data were transmitted via satellite from the rig site to the
provide a stand-off of 60 ft above the OWC and 150 ft below offices in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (800 km (500 miles) to the
the GOC. The well placement was optimized based on north). The utilization of a real-time geo-steering system
simulation studies and the performance of existing wells. The improved the efficiency of drilling operations. For example,
trajectories of the laterals were designed to be drilled within a monitoring the down-hole measurements such as the
3-foot vertical window. inclination data enhanced the borehole cleaning process
The completion was planned as 6 1/8-in openhole based on through improvements in sliding versus rotational
field experience and geomechanical studies. A decision was drilling decisions.
made not to equip the well with down-hole monitoring and
intervention capabilities (e.g. intelligent completions) at this Clean-up Procedures and Completion:
time to maintain utmost operational simplicity while attaining During the completion, entry into the laterals was achieved by
the well productivity objectives. using a hole finder tool along with MWD. Laterals were
4 SPE 81487

displaced to 77 pcf Cacl2 brine and at least three hole volumes Depth To Horizontal Section
were circulated. Frequent wiper trips while drilling were SHYB 220
performed to stir up the cuttings and allow their removal from SHYB-23 SHYB-3 SHYB-220 SHYB-206 SHYB-27

the hole. The motherbore was conditioned first, followed up

by lateral-1 and the remaining laterals (lateral-8 being the
last). Acidic brine was not spotted as programmed due to lost
circulation while displacing to brine. The well was completed
open hole with a packer and 4-1/2-in tubing. A sliding sleeve
and X-nipple were placed at 50 hole inclination to facilitate
operation with wireline tools.

Reservoir Characterization

The presence of a strong correlation between core derived 27

facies and open hole log values8 was recognized in the 206
development drilling phase of the project that began in 1996. 23
Gamma ray and porosity logs were the most sensitive to the Datum: Top SHUB 3
Depth: TVDSS
ranges of petrophysical characteristics found in the rudist bank Depth Scale: 50 feet

and associated platform facies above the lithocodium/coral

boundary (Figure 7). Figure 8- Cross Section Showing the Relative Stratigraphic
Position of SHYB-220 Main Wellbore to Offset Wells
Gamma Ray Porosity
0 30 Core .4 0

Well SHYB-220 was drilled and cased off at the beginning of
Facies the horizontal section. The main hole was drilled and logged
40 Deep Algal Platform while drilling with the standard gamma ray, porosity, and
Algal Platfor
Algal Platform resistivity suite of logs. The range of gamma ray and porosity
log values revealed that the well entered into a facies marked
by heterogeneity (rather than the uniformity associated with
Deep Lagoon
lithocodium/coral facies). The well had apparently penetrated
Shallow Lagoon
back bank, minor rudist bank, lagoon, and lithocodium/coral
Gamma Ray

Deep Slope
facies (Figures 9, 10 and 11), skimming along the
Shallow Slope lithocodium/coral boundary.
Fore Bank
It would appear that the eastern laterals crossed into a back
bank sequence towards a rudist buildup and the western
Back Bank
laterals intersected a laterally varying combination of the
lithocodium/coral, back bank, and lagoonal facies. Because of
Rudist the detail provided by the laterals it is possible to define the
.1 .2 .3 approximate outline of a prograding back bank debris fan,
Porosity sourced from a rudist buildup located east and south of well
206, into a protected and restricted shallow marine lagoon
environment (Figures 10 and 11).

Figure 7- Cross Plot of Gamma Ray and Porosity to Define

Rock Facies based on Petrophysical Characteristics.
The placement of well SHYB-220 at a constant elevation
beneath the gas cap, and inboard from the edge of the field,
required that it be drilled stratigraphically deep in the reservoir
to stay within the oil column. The stratigraphic relationship in
the horizontal placement of the well relative to the offset wells
indicated that it would most likely penetrate and stay in the
relatively homogenous lithocodium/coral facies (Figure 8).
SPE 81487 5

West SHYB-220 and Laterals East 3-D Projection

Top Lithocodium/Coral Facies SHYB-206
Main Hole

2 MH 1

6 8


L-5 L-4 L-6 L-8
L-3 1
3 N

Figure 11- 3D Projection of SHYB-220 Mainhole and
6 Laterals Across the top of Lithocodium/Coral
Facies Boundary.

L-2 L-1
The electrofacies in the closely spaced laterals provide a
Figure 9-Electrofacies Characterization of SHYB-220 and lateral and vertical dimension to the facies distribution in this
the Eight Laterals. part of the Shaybah Field normally not available in
the subsurface.

Production Testing:
SHYB-27 SHYB-206
SHYB-220 was placed on stream on November 2, 2002 with
an estimated production rate of 12 MBOD. A PI test
conducted on SHYB-220 shows a five-fold increase compared
to a 1-km horizontal completion in similar facies (Figure 12).
iba The following is a summary of the tests conducted on the three
MRC wells:

Well # Rate On-Stream FWHP Choke PI

Lithoc MBOD Date psig % STBD/psi
SHYB 12 11/2002 940 25 102
2 1 -220
Algal P
SHYB 8 8/2002 930 28 75*
x -378
SHYB 10 8/2002 1060 28 120*
2 -380
1 * Estimated PI based on initial 6-hour tests following

206 well completion.

Figure 10-A Structural Cross Section through the Distal

Parts of SHYB-220 Mainhole and Laterals 1 and 2
illustrating the facies penetrated by each.
6 SPE 81487





$/bbl/day of Initial Production

125 0.8

Normalized Unit Cost

PI, STBD/Psi (Actual)

100 0.6

75 0.4


25 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Reservoir Contact, Km

0 Figure 13: Normalized Unit Cost as a Function of

1 Km 2 Km 3.7 Km 5.8 Km 8.5 Km 12.3 Km
Reservoir Contact in South Shaybah Field. (Note costs are
relative to a 1-km well).
Figure 12- Productivity Index as a Function of Reservoir
Contact (Note*: SHYB-378 and 380 based on 6 hour tests).
Discussion and Future Implications
Figure 12 shows a comparative bar chart of PI (actual) values
for several wells in south Shaybah, versus reservoir contact. A The PI data and the performance histories of the three MRC
strong correlation is evident suggesting that the increasing wells in Shaybah convey a promising outlook, at the present.
reservoir contact does contribute to gains in well-productivity. While the preliminary nature of the positive assessment is
The SHYB-220 PI value is below the general trend and may acknowledged, there may be merit in addressing some of the
reflect an artifact of some formation damage. A pre-drilling/production concerns regarding a) formation
comprehensive testing program (involving multi-rate tests and damage, b) flattening of well productivities with more contact,
build-ups) will be conducted in the coming months to c) operational-complications, d) cost over-runs, etc. The
ascertain the degree of formation damage, if any, in the three marked increase in actual PIs (Figure 12) and the sustained
MRC wells (see Figure 1). SHYB-378 and SHYB-380 are high production rates of the MRC wells (compared to offset
equipped with down-hole continous monitoring systems horizontals) indicates that, by in large, more reservoir contact
(pressure and temperature only) which will allow a real-time enhances well productivities. Formation damage, even if
surveillance of their performance. Their dissimilar subsurface present, has not been a major factor. In the case of SHYB-220,
geometries (SHYB-378/fishbone, SHYB-380/fork, and additional production might, in fact, remove some of the
SHYB-220/hybrid) may also have an impact on their suspected near wellbore damage with time.
performance, which may, albeit, prove difficult to distinguish. The absence of operational complications (and avoidance of
cost-overruns) was the outcome of an intensive pre-drilling
planning exercise addressing all aspects of the MRC project. A
Cost-Benefit Assessment deliberate decision was made to maintain the simplicity of
completion designs based on a production first concept. As
Unit development costs exhibit a dramatic reduction with more experience is gained with MRC wells, the sophistication
increasing reservoir contact (Figure 13) underscoring that of future down-hole completions will likely rise as a result of
MRC wells can offer huge financial benefits in addition to the enhancements in surveillance, control, and intervention
reservoir performance advantages noted earlier (lower GORs, capabilities. Future opportunities for further reductions in unit
higher cumulative recoveries). Other indicators such as NPV development costs via MRC wells are ever-present, given the
profitability and ROI figures are equally favourable to MRC historical analog with early horizontal wells.
wells. The normalized unit development cost reflects all MRC wells appear to hold the potential to be a disruptive
expenses associated with drilling, completion, and well hook- technology for tight-facies reservoirs such as Shaybah. Their
up per bbl/day of initial production. A 1-km horizontal well success depends on a solid grasp of reservoir fundamentals1,9
was used as a reference point to compute normalized unit (characterization, fluid contacts, drive mechanisms,
costs. SHYB-220 shows a four fold reduction in unit compaction, etc.), an advantage in Shaybah. Conversely, any
development cost relative to a 1-km well. major flaws in the noted fundamentals are likely to result in
costly failures. MRC wells represent a high-risk, high-return
development option for tight facies reservoirs. Minimizing
risks by a better understanding of reservoir fundamentals thus
becomes a business imperative. The potential benefits of MRC
wells are not confined to tight-facies reservoirs, the focus of
SPE 81487 7

this paper. The coming years are likely to witness successful References
applications in medium and high-permeability formations.
1. Saleri, N.G., Learning Reservoirs: Adapting to Disruptive
Technologies Distinguished Author Series, JPT, March 2002,
p 57.
Summary and Conclusions
2. Saleri, N.G., Disruptive Technologies and Real-Time Reservoir
1. SHYB-220 was drilled with a total of eight laterals Management Issues, Keynote Speech, Sixth International
comprising an aggregate reservoir contact of 12.3 Forum on Reservoir Simulation, Salzburg, Austria, September
kms as part of a pilot program to evaluate MRC 3-7, 2001.
2. A production test on SHYB-220 indicated a PI of 3. Hughes, G. W., Bioecostratigraphy of the Shuaiba Formation,
102 STBD/psi which represents a five-fold increase Shaybah Field, Saudi Arabia. GeoArabia, Vol. 5, No. 4, 2000,
compared to 1-km horizontal completions in Gulf PetroLink, Bahrain.
similar facies (10mD). Furthermore, a four-fold
4. Salamy, S.P., et al., 2002, Impact of a Comprehensive Horizontal
reduction in unit development costs was achieved. Well Production Logging and Testing Program in Shaybah Field,
3. Production and testing results to date on 3 MRC Saudi Arabia. SPE, Asia Pacific Oil and Gas Conference and
wells are highly encouraging. MRC wells, when Exhibition, paper 77933, Melbourne, Australia, October
engineered and applied correctly, can have far- 8-10, 2002.
reaching implications for developing tight-facies
reservoirs economically. Unfolding improvements 5. Meader, T., et al., 2000, To the Limit and Beyond-The Secret of
in the coming years in drilling and completion World-Class Extended-Reach Drilling Performance at Wytch
aspects of MRC wells are likely to amplify their Farm, SPE 2000 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference, SPE 59204,
disruptive technology attributes further. New Orleans, Louisiana, February 23-25, 2000.
4. A highly useful by-product of MRC wells is the 6. Saleri, N.G., Maximum Reservoir Contact Wells: Re-writing the
significant gain in reservoir characterization due to Rules of the Subsurface, SPE Gulf Coast Section Presentation,
the dense spacing of acquired formation Houston, Texas, September 26, 2002.
evaluation data.
5. The apparent success of SHYB-220 and the other 7. Bigno, Y., et al., 2001, Multilateral Waterflood Development of
two MRC wells can be related to four factors: a Low-Permeability Carbonate Reservoir, 2001 SPE ATC&E,
a. A solid understanding of reservoir paper 71609, New Orleans, Louisiana, September 30 October
performance fundamentals. 3, 2001.
b. Simplicity in design and execution.
8. Amos, S. W., 1998, in Shaybah Guidebook, Saggaf, M. F., ed.,
c. Assymetric priorities with production Saudi Aramco in-house report, p.39-43.
objectives being the primary driver.
d. A tight coordination among the multi- 9. Saleri, N.G.: Re-Engineering Simulation: Managing Complexity
disciplinary teams to rigorously engineer the and Complexification in Reservoir Projects, SPEREE, February
MRC wells commensurate with their 1998, p5.
investment value (mud systems, circulation
methods, trajectory, completion, etc.).
6. MRC wells expand the functionality of the drill bit
beyond its conventional domain (i.e. the drill bit
assumes a role, analogous to hydraulic fracturing,
to enhance reservoir conductivities).

Special thanks are extended to Saudi Aramco Drilling and
Workover and Shaybah Producing organizations. M. Marwat,
M. Al-Hattab, and A. Al-Shurie are recognized for coordinating
and executing the testing programs.