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Overcoming Challenges in Developing Shale
and Tight Gas Reservoirs

17 – 20 March 2014:: Abu Dhabi, UAE


Technical Agenda

Monday, 17 March, 0900–1230

Session 1: Regional Versus Global Challenges

Session Chairs: Omar Yousef Saif, ADMA-OPCO; Qassim Al Riyami, Petroleum Development Oman

Rapid domestic demand growth for gas, primarily for power generation and the petrochemical industry, has coincided with a decline in conventional gas production in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The supply shortfall expected in the near future may be met by unconventional gas, with its large volumes and long-term potential. The production of this resource has gained momentum worldwide because of the unprecedented success demonstrated recently by North America, where it has the potential of transforming a net importer into a gas exporter.

This session will focus on current and future challenges for unconventional gas exploitation in the MENA region. These challenges include:

  • Incentivising operators and service providers through government initiatives to address unconventional resources, which are economically less attractive.
  • Establishing the necessary infrastructure for large scale drilling and frac operations as well as pipelines for produced hydrocarbons.
  • Establishing a framework for operators to share information to accelerate the early learning cycle.
  • Deploying and adapting drilling, stimulation and frac technology to meet MENA reservoir needs.
  • Advancing and deploying well technology for local reservoir/play conditions, with the aim of enhancing EUR.
  • Providing training and skillset development for local personnel.
  • Management of the supply chain process to reduce well cost through economies of scale.


Session 2: Reservoir Quality/Sweet Spot Identification

Session Chairs: Abdulwahab AlBulushi, Oman Oil Company E&P; Osama Amin Al Shaarawy, ADCO

Shale and tight gas reservoirs are real sources for future gas supply. Reservoir quality is one of the major challenges for the development of shale and tight gas reservoirs. In shale gas plays, sweet spot is characterised by high TOC (Total Organic Content) and reasonable maturity (Ro) that reflect the ability of the shale to generate hydrocarbons. Huge shale volumes exist everywhere in sedimentary basins, the sweet spot is where Ro and TOC rest within the gas window. Intensive geochemical analyses are required to assess the potentiality of shale plays; hence, its hydrocarbon impending. This session will focus on future challenges related to:

  • Locating naturally fractured zones/areas and high pressure zones.
  • Seismic inversion to locate sweet spots and map out reservoir quality.
  • Advanced reservoir characterisation to resolve the ambiguity associated with basin dimensions.

Tuesday, 18 March, 0900–1230

Session 3: Drilling Technologies

Session Chair: Qassim Al Riyami, Petroleum Development Oman

In North America, advances in technology have improved shale and tight gas well drilling. Current drilling technologies include pad and batch, horizontal, multi-laterals, motor, bit optimisation and top drive system. Mapping fit for purpose tailored drilling technologies for the play development and where it will be implemented, is a key enabler in unlocking shale and tight gas reservoirs. The unique nature of tight gas reservoirs poses many challenges to drilling operations. These challenges include formation damage, slow ROP, HPHT, wellbore instability, and well integrity. This may result in reduced production, increased development costs, and HSE exposure.

This session will focus on:

  • Key future drilling technologies enablers which would facilitate unlocking of unconventional resources in an economically constrained environment.
  • Emerging future technologies that play a major role in maturing cost efficient drilling practices.
  • Drilling technologies that address maximum rig resource utilisation and focus on increasing the ultimate recovery per well.


Session 4: Completion Intervention and Diagnostic Techniques

Session Chairs: Francisco E. Fragachán, Weatherford; Tim Huang, Baker Hughes

The driver behind every well completion strategy, whether for a complex or basic well, is to recover, at a reasonable cost, as large a percentage of the original hydrocarbon in place as possible; unconventional gas reservoirs are not excluded. As we move into more complex reservoirs with challenging conditions due to ultra-low permeability, depth, temperature, pressure, and situations requiring remote operations (e.g. deep water and desert environment reservoirs), the unavoidable question is “What will be required in the future to produce hydrocarbons from these challenging reservoirs?” This applies to currently producing reservoirs and as well as those from newly discovered ones.

With an ever increasing global energy demand, the industry has to focus on the discovery of resources not only in previously unexplored locations, but through smart intervention systems that will, ideally, safely self-diagnose for production optimisation and enhancement. New completion and diagnostic technologies are required to harness the full potential of the invariably complex reservoirs; examples of which are:

  • New diagnostic techniques that overcome problems associated with current well logging and well testing methods.
  • Application of smart fluids in well completion and reservoir evaluation.
  • Auto-diagnostic data transmitting.
  • A new level of efficiency and accountability to the development and management of complex well delivery schedules.

Wednesday, 19 March, 0900–1230

Session 5: Alternative to Conventional Stimulation

Session Chairs: Francisco E. Fragachán, Weatherford; Osama Amin Al Shaarawy, ADCO

Conventional stimulation for shale and tight gas reservoirs include hydraulic fracturing and/or acid fracturing. Laser perforation and radioactive stimulation, for instance, could become future alternatives by means of which, shale and tight gas reservoirs can be converted into commercial producible reservoirs. Other alternatives such as the cavitation hydrovibrator, designed to fracture rock using pressurised water pulse, and "Terra Slicing", involving an environmentally and ecologically safe excavation process in which fracturing is possible and highly determinable, could potentially become viable alternatives to current conventional stimulation.

Obviously, technology is not limited to those specifically mentioned applications, and future innovations could evolve into alternative solutions. Future applications should include innovative approaches to developing smart wells that do not rely on pulling the completion, for instance, to identify the underperforming areas. This session focuses on the development of new technologies like:

  • Developing green technologies that could potentially become future stimulation technologies which replace current stimulation practices.
  • Replacing costly multistage fracturing with cost effective fracturing techniques.
  • Expanding the existing stimulation procedures into innovative methods to increase the stimulated reservoir volume.
  • Technologies that support coiled tubing drilling; for example, expanding its applications from well intervention to production enhancement and well surveillance.


Session 6: Reservoir Surveillance and Management

Session Chair: Hans-Christian Freitag, Baker Hughes

Tight and shale gas reservoirs are typically developed with well designs that aim at maximising the reservoir contact area for higher productivity. Wells with long reach, multilateral, fishbone, and other architectural styles are typical examples of unconventional gas wells that have achieved commercial production. While it is acknowledged that surveillance and reservoir management create significant value in the lifecycle of a given field, they may not be fully factored into the well design/completion strategy. This could result in wells that are not suitable for surveillance and management in the “Operation” phase after it is handed over to the asset team.

Therefore, the reservoir surveillance and management strategy for shale/tight gas development needs to be stipulated in the project concept/design phase before the basis of well design is finalised. This session will discuss:

  • The future key elements of reservoir surveillance strategy
  • The value drivers and tools/technologies for surveillance and reservoir management
  • Real time sensing
  • New surveillance methods for well stimulation

Thursday, 20 March , 0900–1230

Session 7: Environmental Commitment and Responsibilities

Session Chairs: Hazim Abass, Saudi Aramco; Lawrence Sullivan, Lawrence D. Sullivan & Company

As we lay the groundwork for technology change through long term research and development, it is important to consider the environmental concerns and responsibilities surrounding unconventional gas development. The proven advanced technology should be responsibly applied to access this vast and needed energy resource. This session introduces concepts and discusses practices that need to be incorporated, to extract the gas from shale formations, with the new technology developments, to achieve:

  • Using less water or eliminating water in hydraulic fracturing treatments.
  • Onsite fluids treatment and recycling for reuse, and eliminating disposal of large quantities of contaminated fluid.
  • Reducing the environmental footprint associated with well sites.
  • Safety consciousness to people, animals, plants, and air, especially when producing “sour gas”.
  • Preventing and mitigating the environmental impacts associated with offshore developments.


Session 8: Building Expertise for Unconventional Resources

Session Chairs: Abdulwahab AlBulushi, Oman Oil Company E&P; Hans-Christian Freitag, Baker Hughes

The so-called “Shale Revolution” in North America was actually more of an evolution that happened over a period of thirty years—a whole generation of learning was necessary to successfully unlock the potential of this new resource. Now the rest of the world wants to benefit quickly from the experience gathered in North America by transferring and applying it to new plays, some of which are significantly different from the North American unconventional settings. Unconventional plays always require an unconventional approach—what works in a conventional setting, be it drilling, formation evaluation or completion practices, may be a poor choice in an unconventional environment. At the same time, the industry is facing a generational change in its qualified, technical staff, sometimes referred to as “The Big Crew Change”. Examples of key factors in separating success from failure are:

  • Sustainable development and retention of specialised expertise for shale and tight gas resources
  • Implementation of knowledge management programs
  • Implementation of retention programs for experienced staff
  • Remote operations monitoring and real-time assistance

The above will all provide several means of building independent E&P companies’ future capabilities in this area. Moreover, building and maintaining expertise will be a key differentiator for operation and service companies alike in helping to unlock the much needed shale and tight gas resources to support and maintain the world’s future growth opportunities as well as giving companies a competitive advantage in exploiting unconventional resources.