What is Completion Optimization?

By Sudhendu Kashikar
Vice President, Completions Evaluation

What is completion optimization?  Very simply it is achieving higher rate of return on your investment.  In other words, it is improving recovery while lowering finding costs.

As an industry, we have done a phenomenal job of optimizing completions.  The Figure shows the rig count and cumulative production from 2007 in the four large oil producing basins.  

cum oil production


Essentially the rig count has remained flat, around 1200 rigs, since 2012.  However we have seen a significant increase in production over the same period.  We have increased the production per active rig consistently in each of the unconventional basins.  We see very similar results in other basins. We have achieved this through several innovations and advances in technology such as:

  • Pad drilling – This allowed us to reduce the time required to drill with new and efficient rigs along with improved drilling practices.
  • Longer laterals – The average length of the horizontal wells has increased, while reducing the number of days required to drill these laterals
  • Well-placement – The use of geosteering has increased the length of the wellbore placed within the target formation, boosting production from individual wells
  • Completion techniques - New completions are using more stages, with higher proppant volumes achieving better formation coverage and improved recovery

We should be very proud of our achievements.  However we cannot stop here.  Even without the recent drop in oil / gas prices, there is a need to continue to reduce D&C costs and improve recovery.  The challenge then is: how can we achieve this with oil and gas prices that are half of what they were last year.   

I believe microseismic will play a larger and more important role in helping us push the boundaries of completion optimization.  How exactly can microseismic help in achieving this?  It will come from reframing the questions we are trying to answer. 

We have been focused on answering the question: “Where did the proppant go?”  This is not the only question we should be asking.  The question we should be asking is, how much permeability enhancement have we achieved within the Stimulate Rock Volume (SRV) and Productive-SRV® (P-SRV). Ultimately it is the permeability enhancement that allows us to produce hydrocarbons from these very tight shale reservoirs.  We can have two wells with the same volumetric SRV / P-SRV, however the production can and is often very different from those two wells.  This comes down to the permeability enhancement realized or achieved within the P-SRV / SRV volume.

Understanding and being able to quantify the permeability enhancement within the stimulated regions will help us achieve the next leap in completion optimization. Understanding and quantifying the permeability enhancement from hydraulic fracturing will enable us to:

  • Predict future production
  • Predict stage level production contribution
  • Identify regional sweet spots
  • Improve refracs

At Microseismic Inc., we continuously strive to answer the difficult questions, invent new methods and techniques to provide intelligent solutions.  We have developed new techniques that enable us to answer the above question: where and how much permeability enhancement have we achieved as a result of hydraulic fracturing?   It is this understanding that allows our clients to move from diagnostic to prescriptive use of microseismic data and thus achieve the next leap in completion optimization.