Cracks, energy, and nanoseismic

Following on from our post on Monday, here are some presentations that caught our attention on days 2 and 3 at the CSPG CSEG CWLS convention this week in Calgary. 

On Tuesday, Eric von Lunen of Nexen chose one of the more compelling titles of the conference: What do engineers need from geophysicists in shale resource plays? Describing some of the company's work in the Horn River sub-basin, he emphasized the value of large, multi-faceted teams of subsurface scientists, including geochemists, geologists, geophysicists, petrophysicists, and geo-mechanics. One slightly controversial assertion: Nexen interprets less than 20% of the fractures as vertical, and up to 40% as horizontal. 

Jon Olson is Associate Professor at University of Texas at Austin, shared some numerical modeling and physical experiments that emphasized the relevance of subcritical crack indices for unconventional reservoir exploitation. He presented the results of a benchtop hydrofracking experiment on a cubic foot of gyprock. By tinting frac fluids with red dye, Jon is able to study the fracture patterns directly by slicing the block and taking photographs. It would be curious to perform micro-micro-seismic (is that nanoseismic?) experiments, to make a more complete small-scale analog.

Shawn Maxwell of Schlumberger is Mr Microseismic. We're used to thinking of the spectrum of a seismic trace; he showed the spectrum of a different kind of time series, the well-head pressure during a fracture stimulation. Not surprisingly, most of the energy in this spectrum is below 1 Hz. What's more, if you sum the energy recorded by a typical microseismic array, it amounts to only one millionth of the total energy pumped into the ground. The deficit is probably aseismic, at least certainly outside the seismic band (about 5 Hz to 200 Hz on most jobs). Where is the rest of the pumped energy? Some sinks are: friction losses in the pipe, friction losses in the reservoir, heat, etc.

Image of Horn River shale is licensed CC-BY-SA, from Qyd on Wikimedia Commons.