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Recovery Factors and

Reserves in
Naturally Fractured Reservoirs

Roberto Aguilera is president of Pore Classification

Servipetrol Ltd. in Calgary, Alberta. He is
It is possible to make preliminary estimates of productive char-
a petroleum engineering graduate from
acteristics of common reservoir porosity types following a classi-
the Universidad de America at Bogota,
fication proposed by Coalson et al(9). In this classification porosity
Colombia, and holds masters and Ph.D.
classes are defined first by the geometry of the pores, and second
degrees in petroleum engineering from
by pore size.
the Colorado School of Mines. He has
Included in the geometry are the following pore categories:
rendered consulting and training services
intergranular, intercrystalline, vuggy, and fracture. The combina-
to oil and gas companies worldwide. He
tion of any of them can give origin to dual and even multi-
is author of the book Naturally Fractured
porosity behavior.
Reservoirs, PennWell, Tulsa, OK (1980,
1995), and co-author of the books The Technology of Artificial Included in the pore size are megaporosity, macroporosity,
Lift Methods, Vol. 4, PennWell (1984) with Kermit Brown et al.; mesoporosity, and microporosity.
Horizontal Wells, Gulf Publishing Co., Houston, Texas (1991); Table 1 shows typical petrophysical parameters for this classifi-
and Determination of Oil and Gas Reserves, The Petroleum cation adapted from a combination of Coalson et al.(9), and
Society Monograph No.1 (1994). White(lO). Included in this Table are the geometry, pore size, pore
throat radius at 35% mercury saturation (Winland R35 values),
permeability to air, immobile water saturation and typical capil-
Introduction lary pressure curves coded A through D. These capillary pressures
Conventional reservoir engineering techniques and naturally are shown on Figure I.
fractured reservoirs do not mix well. The use of conventional The aperture of the fractures and vugs deserve further discus-
techniques has led to underestimating or overestimating recover- sion. From laboratory work and experience it has been found that
ies and reserves in many naturally fractured reservoirs worldwide. nut shells and plastic materials can stop circulation losses in frac-
tures with apertures as large as 5,000 microns. If in a given natu-
This paper is a follow-up to a previous article dealing with
advances in the study of naturally fractured reservoirs(l). In that
article I concentrated on types of fractures, how to intersect them, ;<:1
and on key items associated with data acquisition. H,
In this paper I provide general information dealing with recov- ~,

ery estimates and reserves in naturally fractured reservoirs. The ~I

paper is intended for the general interest reader who is not a spe- "'I
cialist in the field.
Recovery "'"
U) E
Not all fractured reservoirs are the same. So talking about frac-
tured reservoirs in general is not good enough. My recommenda-
tion is to initially classify the reservoir according to (I) geologic,
(2) pore system, (3) hydrocarbon storage, and (4) matrix/fracture
interaction points of view.

Geologic Classification
From a geologic point of view the fractures can be classified as
being tectonic (fold and/or fault related), regional, contractional
(diagenetic), and surface related(l-3). Historically most hydrocar-
bon production has been obtained from tectonic fractures, fol-
A •
o 65 100%
lowed by regional fractures and followed by contractional frac-
tures. In general, surface related fractures are not important from
FIGURE 1: Capillary pressure curves (adapted from Coalson et
the point of view of hydrocarbon production. When classifying al'(9».
the fractures determine fracture dip and strike.

July 1999, Volume 38, No.7 15

rally fractured reservoir these materials cannot stop circulation porosity. This is due to the pervasiveness of tectonic fractures that
losses the conclusion is reached that the apertures are bigger than exist from a macro scale to the grain size scale (they are very frac-
5,000 microns. In fact, secondary porosity apertures can actually tal). In these cases micro and macrofractures compose the usual
reach cavern-size in some instances. dual-porosity system.
In reservoirs of Type B approximately half the hydrocarbon
Storage Classification storage is in the matrix and half is in the fractures. The matrix is
tight and the fractures are much more permeable than the matrix.
From a storage point of view the fractures can be classified(3) as In reservoirs of Type C all the hydrocarbon storage is in the
being of Type A, B or C. Many reservoirs that would otherwise be fractures with no contribution from the matrix. Thus in this
non-productive are commercial thanks to the presence of natural instance the fractures provide both the storage and the necessary
fractures ,(8)
permeability to achieve commercial production.
In reservoirs of Type A the bulk of the hydrocarbon storage is
in the matrix porosity and a small amount of storage is in the frac-
tures. However, the matrix typically has a very low permeability Matrix/Fracture Interaction
while the natural fractures tend to have a much larger No Secondary Mineralization
There are many reservoirs with fractures of tectonic origin Good luck or a teaser? When the natural fractures are open and
where the primary porosity (matrix) tends to be occluded or has have a very small to negligible amount of secondary mineraliza-
extremely low permeability and consequently does not contribute tion the hydrocarbons move from the matrix to ~e fractures in an
any hydrocarbon storage. In these cases a large number of unrestricted way.
microfractures might be present that play the role of "matrix" How quickly the fluids move from matrix to fractures is con-

12000 -r--lI:---+--t"-1,..{j-'l--4--H-r---r---------,

11 000 t--It---1~--\~rIIl-<\---+-"'-+-+-I......,I_-----__1

10000 t--+---<t--1t-HllP-+--+--<--++I-~--------l

9000 t-----tt--+-+-+.It--......;~
r;;j 8000 .--+-~:---\--t\-~t--t--<-+*'-+---------1 _A.IolI'lBI.j)%
-..-11. MI'lEll.l~

~ 7000 +-'\----Il--\--\iH~"t--~
.....~f_+-------_{ --e.1oltlER~~

.. OIollNEIl.:JOlll

!o 6000 t-~--+-\:--i't--\-~-+........tft\-+---------1 _ _ E.lIINEll_


::. 5000 t--~--"""~-t-+-\-!t't-+-+<tlMIl--------l

- . G . AATIOolIO%
_ I I . AATIOo70%
ti 4000 t---~-~:---lIl--\:_\.--+-....It:J!\_-----___l ~ AA11OoQll%
• _ . AATIOo:lO%
3000 t------'~-....:IIjr;;t-.::lIk-~~~--=r=~~----___l _ . AAT1G-10%

1.E-05 1.E-04 1.&03


FIGURE 2: Fracture compressibility as a function of net stress on fracture.

16 Joumal of Canadian Petroleum Technology

trolled by the amount of pressure drop in the fractures, matrix pressible than the host rock. Fracture compressibility is an elusive
properties such as permeability, porosity and compressibility, vis- parameter. My recommendation is to determine this parameter in
cosity of the fluid flowing, and fracture spacing or size of the the laboratory using rocks (cores) from your own reservoir. If
matrix blocks. These fractures can provide very high initial rates. these are not available (and they are not available most of the
The major problem with these types of fractures is that they time) we have to resort to empirical correlations.
might tend to close as the reservoir is depleted depending on the I have estimated fracture compressibility using Figure 2
in situ stress, the initial reservoir pressure and the reduction in throughout the years with reasonable success. I must emphasize,
pressure within the fractures. In other words fractures are much however, that this is only an approximation. The intent of this
more compressible than the host rock. graph is not to replace good laboratory work. If you have labora-
If the reservoir is initially overpressured the fracture closure tory data you can corroborate the validity or non-validity of the
can be very significant leading to small recovery, big headaches correlation for your reservoir.
and major financial losses.
Figure 2 is based on correlations published by Jones(4) for frac-
If the reservoir is initially underpressured the fracture closure is tures, TkhostoV(5) for secondary porosity including fractures, vugs
not as significant because most of the closure at reservoir depth and caverns, and my observations regarding secondary
has already occurred. Ultimate recoveries will be bigger than in mineralization.
the previous case.
Curve A is for the case of natural fractures without any sec-
Some Secondary Mineralization ondary mineralization. Curves B through F are for the case of
fractures with partial secondary mineralization. Curves G to L cal-
I think good luck! When natural fractures have a certain culate compressibility of the total secondary porosity system
amount of secondary mineralization the fluid flow from matrix to including fractures, vugs, and caverns.
fractures is somewhat restricted. From the point of view of pres- The "ratio" in curves G to L is equal to fracture porosity divid-
sure behavior during well testing this can be visualized as a natur- ed by the total secondary porosity. Notice that curves F and G are
al skin within the reservoir (not to be confused with mechanical very close.
skin around the wellbore routinely calculated).
Partial mineralization is a blessing in disguise. In this case the To use the chart, if for example the net stress on fractures is
secondary minerals will act as a natural proppant agent and frac- 5,000 psi and the estimated secondary mineralization is 50%, the
ture closure will be significantly reduced (not completely stopped) fracture compressibility from Figure 2 is 2.63E-05/psi.
even in overpressured reservoirs. This in tum will lead to higher If the system contains fractures and vugs, and the ratio of frac-
ultimate recoveries. The fracture closure will be smaller in nor- ture porosity divided by the summation of fracture porosity plus
mally pressured reservoirs, and even smaller in underpressured vuggy porosity is 50%, then the compressibility of the secondary
reservoirs. porosity system from Figure 2 is lE-05/psi at a net stress of 6,300
Complete Secondary Mineralization Measurements of in situ stresses are very important(l-3). If they
are not available, keep in mind when estimating fracture com-
Bad luck!! Even if there is a lot of hydrocarbons within the
reservoir the ultimate recovery will be low. The mineralized frac- pressibility that in areas dominated by normal faulting the biggest
stress is vertical and approximately equal to the net overburden(6).
tures will compartmentalize the reservoir leading to very low ulti-
In this case the least stress is horizontal and approximately equal
mate recoveries.
to one-half to one-third the net vertical stress.
Fracture Compressibility In areas dominated by thrust faulting the biggest stress is hori-
zontal and is approximately equal to two to three times the net
Open or partially mineralized natural fractures are more com- overburden(6).

July 1999, Volume 38, No.7 17

Ranges of Recovery A Review-.and a Look Ahead
Each naturally fractured reservoir should be considered as a Since my early days working with naturally fractured reser-
research project by itself. As such it has to be studied carefully to voirs, I have seen extraordinary advances in the geophysical, geo-
estimate recoveries. logical and engineering fields. These advances have led to
I am providing in Tables 2 and 3, however, some ranges of improved estimates of recoveries and reserves. These improve-
recoveries based on my experience working with fracture reser- ments will continue.
voirs worldwide for over 25 years. These oil and gas recovery Over the next few years I anticipate significant improvements
estimates are presented for different recovery mechanisms and in seismic data to better characterize anisotropy of naturally frac-
different types of fractured reservoirs. They are not panaceas. Use tured reservoirs.
them carefully and only as order of magnitude indicators. There is There will be advances in the evaluation of whole cores and the
no substitute for a detailed study. uncertainty associated with estimates of fracture compressibility
Although in general hydrocarbon recoveries from Type C will be reduced.
reservoirs are larger than for Types A and B, the engineer has to
Imaging logs will continue improving and this will lead to
be careful because usually the amount of hydrocarbon-in-place in
more reasonable estimates of fracture parameters.
Type C reservoirs is smaller.
More, better and more realistic well testing and reservoir simu-
Reserves lation models will be developed. Simulation grids will be
improved. Software "friendliness" will be a big part of these
An excellent source(7) regarding proved, probable and possible
oil and gas reserves is the Petroleum Society of elM Monograph
No. I published in 1994. Hydrocarbon recoveries will continue increasing as more devi-
When it comes to naturally fractured reservoirs I recommend ated and horizontal wells are drilled to properly intersect vertical
the use of statistical procedures to quantify the uncertainty associ- and high inclination natural fractures.
ated with hydrocarbons-in-place and reserves. Many of the currently producing "conventional" reservoirs will
Most naturally fractured reservoirs I am familiar with are char- be recognized as being actually naturally fractured, although in
acterized by low matrix porosities (less than 10%) and low matrix some cases it might be too late.
permeabilities (less than 1 md).
For these reservoir characteristics it is difficult to place a rea- REFERENCES
sonable certainty of volumetric estimates of original hydrocar-
bons-in-place and hence reserves. As a consequence, I recom- 1. AGUILERA, R., Advances in the Study of Naturally Fractured
mend to place reserves from volumetric estimates initially in the Reservoirs; Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology. Vol. 32.
No.5, pp. 24-26, May 1993.
possible category. For matrix porosities larger than 10% and
2. NELSON, R., Geologic Analysis of Naturally Fractured Reservoirs,
matrix permeabilities larger than I md the reserves can be moved
Contributions in Petroleum Geology and Engineering; Vol. I, Gulf
to the probable category. Publishing Co., Houston, TX, 1985.
Early material balance calculations can provide estimates of 3. AGUILERA, R., Naturally Fractured Reservoirs; PennWell Books,
probable reserves. As the cumulative production increases and Tulsa, OK, 1995.
with good quality pressure data (long flow and long shut-in times) 4. JONES, F.O., A Laboratory Study of the Effects of Confining
the material balance reserves can be moved into the proved Pressure on Fracture Flow and Storage Capacity in Carbonate Rocks;
category. Journal of Petroleum Technology. pp. 21-27. January-February,
I place production decline estimates from short history in an 1982.
unproved category. Long production history leads to reasonable 5. TKHOSTOV, B.A., VEZIROBA, A.D., VENDEL'SHTEYN, B.Y.,
estimates of proved oil reserves. I do not recommend decline and DOBRYNIN, V.M., Oil in Fractured Reservoirs; Izd. Nedra,
curves for estimating proved reserves of gas reservoirs unless the Leningrad, 173-197, 1970.
wells are at a late stage of production where a constant surface 6. KING HUBBERT, M. and WILLIS, D.G., Mechanics of Hydraulic
compression pressure is being utilized. Fracturing; Petroleum trans., AIME, Vol. 210, pp. 153-163, 1957.
Beware of water influx in naturally fractured gas reservoirs. A 7. Determination of Oil and Gas Reserves; Petroleum Society of CIM
well might be producing extremely well. But it is not unusual to Monograph No. I, Calgary, AB, 1994.
see the gas rate go to nothing once water reaches the 8. AGUILERA. R., Geologic Aspects of Naturally Fractured
wellbore. Reservoirs; The Leading Edge, pp. 1667-1670, December 1998.
Reservoir simulation, although imperfect, is the tool that in my 9. COALSON, E.B., HARTMANN, D.J., and THOMAS, LB.,
opinion provides the most reliable source of information for esti- Productive Characteristics of Common Reservoir Porosity Types;
mating recoveries and proved reserves. A significant amount of Bulletin of the South Texas Geological Society, Vol. 15, No.6, pp.
35-51, February 1985.
high quality data and a rigorous characterization are required. The
longer the production history the more reliable are the forecasted 10. WHITE, K.E., A Petrophysical Evaluation of the Slave Point
Formation, Cranberry Field, Alberta; The First Joint Symposium of
results. the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists and the Canadian
Early in the life of the reservoir when production history is Well Logging Society, Calgary, AB, May 28-31, 1995.~
short or non-existent, proved reserves can be estimated from well
designed, well supervised interference tests using high precision
pressure gauges. The larger the number of wells involved in the
test the better. In addition to providing reserves, the test will give
very useful information regarding anisotropy.
If the objective is estimating reserves by investigating both
matrix and fractures, I do not recommend pulse tests with short
flow and buildup periods. Long continuous flow times during the
interference test are required to properly investigate both matrix
and fractures.
If there is only one well in the naturally fracture reservoir, I
recommend a long flow period following the collection of a good
initial pressure. An estimate of the radius of investigation leads to
a volumetric estimate of hydrocarbons-in-place within the investi-
gated area. This requires a reasonable estimate of net pay, matrix
and fracture porosity, and matrix and fracture hydrocarbon

18 Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology