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SPE 168092

Practical Well Testing Analysis Considerations in Heterogeneous

Ahmed Al-Zayer, Rabah Mesdour, Khaled Al-Faleh, Mustafa Basri and Abdullah Utaibi; Saudi Aramco

Copyright 2013, Society of Petroleum Engineers

This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE Saudi Arabia section Annual Technical Symposium and Exhibition held in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, 19–22 May 2013.

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 have not been
reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its
officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is prohibited. Permission to
reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of SPE copyright.


Declining reserves in conventional gas reservoirs, high energy demand and the evolution of technology are all encouraging oil
and gas companies to consider the feasibility of exploiting large reserves trapped in heterogeneous and tight gas reservoirs.
In general, successful results in tight gas depend on identifying the sweet spots as well as an efficient hydraulic fracturing
treatment for it to be commercially viable. Nevertheless, in order to evaluate the success of the stimulation job, the reservoir
and hydraulic fractures properties need to be quantified. The pressure build-up analysis is a classical tool that is widely used in
the petroleum industry to gain more insight into the reservoir by studying the pressure variation before and after stimulation. In
order to be able to determine skin and reservoir flow capacity, the reservoir must reach infinite acting radial flow, which is
characterized by a flat stabilization on the pressure derivative.

This paper highlights some of the extensive pre and post stimulation pressure build-up results on heterogeneous and tight gas
Sarah sandstone found in the northwest of Saudi Arabia. The analysis shows different behaviors in terms of reservoir response
between a series of build-up in different conditions including openhole, cased hole and post-stimulation test analysis on the
same well. A systematic approach was used to connect between these responses using integrated reservoir data.

Introduction and Historical Background

Recently, exploration drilling activities have been increasing in the northwest of Saudi Arabia for the search of unconventional
gas resources to diversify the energy mix and meet local demand. The tight gas initiative is currently evaluating the gas
potential in the Qusaiba hot shale, Sarah and Qasim formations. Exploring for gas in this area is not new as gas was discovered
in Sarah formation back in 1991. However, the focus was shifted away from theses prospects to the areas of the kingdom with
nearby existing facilities. The chase after these resources regained momentum along with the planned industrial development
of the northwest and the recent advances in hydraulic fracturing technology, which is essential for tight gas.

The nearest producing field out of the Sarah formation is Risha field discovered in 1987. A recent paper by British Petroleum
concluded that well performance is strongly linked to presence of high quality sands imbedded within the bulk of the tight
matrix (Southworth, El Hadidi, & Miller, 2013). In addition, previous work indicated that the porosity of these sandstones is
highly affected by cementation (Tamar-Agha, 2009).

Sarah Geological Background

The Sarah sandstone sediments were deposited in the late Ordovician. The general perception about the depositional history is
being a mix between glacial and fluvial environments. An erosional surface cutting through the underlying formations was
covered with the sand sediments forming the Sarah palaeovalleys. The bottom of the Sarah sequence is mainly composed of
glacial and proglacial sediments that are mostly cemented. The fluvial environment influence became more prominent with
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more sediment filling the valley. In the upper section, the marine environment marked a disconformity between the Sarah and
the transgressive claystone of the Qusiaba member. The presence of these marine rocks provided the Sarah with an effective
seal and hydrocarbon source rock (Qusaiba Hot Shale) (Clark-Lowes, 2005).

Northwest Field Overview

The field is composed of a four way closure that covers a considerable area. Several wells were drilled at different parts of the
structure with variable degree of success. As mentioned previously, the discovery well was drilled in 1991 and flowed gas out
of Sarah but at a low rate and low flowing wellhead pressure with the assistance of nitrogen lift. The cores obtained from the
first well had an average porosity of 2% over the gross thickness of 100 ft. Routine air permeability taken at ambient
conditions showed extremely low permeability with an exception for one core plug that measured 70 md. Although the field
has no established gas water contact, there was some indication of formation water production. This was evident through the
relatively high water gas ratio that might not be fully attributed to condensed water alone.

With more drilling, it became clear that Sarah formation has a high degree of lateral and vertical heterogeneity. This was clear
from the results obtained from the conducted openhole logs and drillstem tests (DST) on those wells. A stratigraphic cross
section, Fig.1, shows the lateral change in facies, where the reservoir changes from good porosity development to extremely

Well (A) Well (B) Well (C)

Figure-1: Lateral Change in Facies across Sarah Formation

DST & Pressure Transient Analysis

Three wells were able to flow naturally and showed good rates and high flowing wellhead pressures. The other wells were not
able to flow and had similar openhole logs to profile of Well (B). Figure 2 Shows the pressure build up response in two of
those wells. The wells were evaluated to be located within a highly conductive channel having a flow capacity (kh) that is
equivalent to 1,470 and 14,000 md.ft that are interpreted to be near wellbore. The data showed good quality except for the
early time, where fluctuations were attributed to the phase segregation caused by the surface shut in. It is noted that both wells
reached the initial reservoir pressure of approximately 3,950 psi and no depletion was seen during the test. The analysis of the
pressure transient data agrees with the core measurements of porosity and permeability. The porosity-permeability crossplot,
Fig.3, shows that the bulk of the gross thickness is composed of tight matrix with the exception for few core plugs
measurement, which belongs to the thin prolific sandstone lenses. Two thin specimens were evaluated and showed the
development of a secondary porosity in the good zone due to dissolution of early carbonate cement as compared to the tight
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Figure-2: Highly Conductive Channels with Lateral Heterogeneity

Figure-3: Porosity-Permeability Crossplot

Well (A) penetrated Sarah formation with a gross thickness of 100 ft. Similar to other wells, and it was tested and produced at
a good rate and high flowing wellhead pressure. Nevertheless, the well was selected to be the first candidate for a proppant
hydraulic fracturing treatment. Extensive data sets were collected from this well that included the following:

• Openhole logs including Formation Micro-Imager (FMI) and temperature logs

• Two Cores
• Openhole DST equipped with a downhole shut in tool
• Pre-stimulation cased hole DST build up
• Post-stimulation pressure build up test
• Isochronal Test
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Based upon openhole logs, two tested intervals were identified for testing purposes. However, the decision was made to
conduct an openhole DST that included both Sarah and the underlying tight Qasim section covering a total thickness more than
400 ft.

The Sarah reservoir mostly composed of tight rock with the exception for two thin zones that showed good quality.
The first zone had a thickness of 5 ft and a porosity of approximately 15% coupled with an excellent core measured
permeability ranged between 100 and 300 md. The second zone was identified utilizing the FMI, which indicated the existence
of conductive fractures across 2 ft interval, Fig.4. During the test, a temperature survey was conducted and indicated that both
zones contributed to the observed gas rate, but the majority of the flow was coming from the first zone, Fig.5.

The pressure build up response, Fig.6, was different than the response of previous wells. The derivative showed a high skin
followed by a valley shape before reaching the radial flow stabilization with a kh of 125 md.ft. The valley shape in the
derivative is well documented in literature and it is a characteristic of three possible models namely dual porosity/permeability,
layered or a composite reservoir (Gringarten, 1987) & (Jordan & Mattar, 2002). It is noted that this signature was not fully
captured with the surface shut-in data compared to the first downhole shut-in data, due to an increase in wellbore storage

Figure-4: Overlay of Well Openhole logs

Figure-5: Temperature Logs Showing Two Gas Producing Zones

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D S T   O P E NHOL E   W IT H   D OW NHOL E   S HUT -­‐IN.ks3   -­‐     (ref)

D S T   O P E NHOL E   W IT H   S UR FACE   S HUT -­‐IN.ks3   -­‐  
Gas potential [psi2/cp]



1E-4 1E-3 0.01 0.1 1 10 100
Time [hr]

Figure-6: Openhole DST Surface & Downhole Comparison

Fracture Design and Stimulation Results

The initial design was to stimulate the whole gross thickness of 100 ft with an effective fracture conductivity of 1247 md.ft. A
20 ft interval was perforated and the treatment was pumped as designed using a 100-mesh proppant, 20/40 CarboProp and
16/30 resin-coated sand. The post injectivity calibration test temperature log, Fig.7, indicated that the fracture might not had
penetrated the entire gross thickness, which was supported with the higher leakoff observed during the treatment. Based on the
temperature log analysis the fracture design was adjusted and the new calculated half-length is around 500 ft. Figure 7 shows
the geometry of the hydraulic fracture after adjusting the model.

Compare files: Log-Log plot (m(p)-m(p@dt=0) and derivative [psi2/cp] vs dt [hr])

Figure-7: Calibration Temperature Log & Post Stimulation Model

A post fracture pressure build up was conducted to evaluate the success of the stimulation job. Figure 8 shows different
observations from the comparison of the post and pre-stimulation tests as follows:
• The early time in the pre-stimulation cased hole test is totally masked by the high skin and wellbore storage.
• The pre-stimulation openhole and cased hole test converged to the same kh level.
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• The post-stimulation response does not show a linear flow, which means there is no big contrast between the reservoir
and fracture conductivity.
• The skin in the post-stimulation test is lower but the derivative shifted upward indicating a tighter response away
from the wellbore.
• This new developed behavior in the late time region in the post-stimulation response and the absence of the radial
flow regime indicate the sweet spot extension is limited around the wellbore

D S T  OP E NH OL E  W IT H  D OW NH OL E  S H U T -­‐IN.k s3  -­‐    (ref)

P R E -­‐F R AC  C AS E D H OL E  T E S T  W IT H  S U R F AC E  S H U T -­‐IN.k s3  -­‐  
P OS T -­‐F R AC  C AS E D H OL E  T E S T  W IT H  S U R F AC E  S H U T -­‐IN.k s3  -­‐  

Gas potential [psi2/cp]



1E-4 1E-3 0.01 0.1 1 10 100
Time [hr]

Figure-8: Pre and Post Stimulation Pressure Build Up Comparison

Numerical Well Model

Numerical well model was built to match the collection of downhole pressure data at different wellbore conditions. Figure 9
shows the 3D Cartesian single porosity and single permeability grid model built with values assigned to each layer. Dry gas
reservoir fluid was considered in the model. Local grid refinement included in the model to account for the near wellbore high
permeability effect in the main zone and in modeling the hydraulic fracture. Vertical barriers were introduced such that no
cross flow can occur within the reservoir between the zones. Assigning the high permeability and barriers was in line with
what was observed from the core. Core plugs above and below the main zone measured extremely low permeability at ambient
conditions, which will be further reduced under overburden pressure. After calibrating the model with the pre-stimulation test
and reproducing the initial reservoir conditions, the model was used to predict the post fracture response. Figure 10 shows the
calibration quality of the 3D numerical model against the openhole test response.
Compare files: Log-Log plot (dm(p) and dm(p)' normalized
Porosity [psi2/cp] vs dt)

Figure-9: 3D Numerical Model with Cartesian Grid

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B AR E  FOOT  OP E NH OL E  W IT H  D OW NH OL E  S H UT  IN.ks3  -­‐    (ref)

Model.ks3  -­‐  

Gas potential [psi2/cp]




1E-5 1E-4 1E-3 0.01 0.1 1 10 100
Time [hr]

Figure-10: Model and Openhole Test Pressure Derivative Comparison

A hydraulic fracture was added to the numerical model to evaluate the effect on the post-stimulation performance. However, it
was observed that adding a hydraulic fracture could not match the actual post fracture pressure build up test derivative late
time response as the hydraulic fracture would not mask the radial flow. In addition, the observed drawdown in the model was
smaller than observed in reality.

An acceptable match, Fig.11, was obtained by introducing damage that seizes the matrix ability to flow. Furthermore, an
isochronal test was conducted on the well and the downhole pressure data was gathered and compared with the previous data,
Fig.12. It is observed that the pressure derivative response was similar to what was originally seen in the openhole test
suggesting that the well isfiles: Log-Log
still recovering plot
from the (dm(p)
fracturing and
fluids.dm(p)' normalized
In addition, the late time[psi2/cp] vsconverging
response was dt) closer
to the original level as well. Based on this interpretation, the reservoir is composed of separate flow units with different
tendency to recover and contribution after the fracture. This resulted in having a larger pressure drop than expected while
producing the well and a slow pressure build response during the shut in period, even with an overall lower skin due to the
imposed damage from the stimulation fluids.

Model.k s3  -­‐  
P OS T  FR AC  C AS E D  H OL E  S UR FAC E  S H UT  IN.k s3  -­‐    (ref)
Gas potential [psi2/cp]




1E-5 1E-4 1E-3 0.01 0.1 1 10 100 1000
Time [hr]

Figure-11: Model and Post-Stimulation Derivative Comparison

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IS OC H R ONAL  T E S T .ks3  -­‐  

BAR E  FOOT  OP E NH OL E  W IT H  D OW NH OL E  S H UT  IN.ks3  -­‐    (ref)
1E+9 P OS T  FR AC  C AS E D  H OL E  S UR FAC E  S H UT  IN.ks3  -­‐  
Gas potential [psi2/cp]


B AR E  F OOT  OP E N H OL E  W IT H  D OW N H OL E  S H U T  IN .k s3  -­‐    (ref)
IS OC H R ON AL  T E S T .k s3  -­‐  
P OS T  F R AC  C AS E D  H OL E  S U R F AC E  S H U T  IN .k s3  -­‐  


Gas potential [psi2/cp]


1E-5 1E-4 1E-3 0.01 0.1 1 10 100
Time [hr] 1E+7
10 100
Tim e [hr]

Figure-12: Openhole DST, Post-Stimulation and Isochronal Test Derivatives Compare files: Log-Log plot (dm(p) and dm(p)' normalized [psi2/cp] vs dt)


1. Successful wells drilled in Sarah formation are associated with an enhanced permeability resulting from the presence
of secondary porosity that was created by the dissolution of carbonate cement.
2. Geological and geophysical understandings are required to locate sweet spots for drilling future wells.
3. Having an integrated set of reservoir data helps in verifying the results from the well testing analysis.
4. It is always preferable to have an openhole pre-stimulation test with downhole shut-in. This will help in setting a
reliable benchmark if the wellbore completion changes. This was evident through the comparison between the
openhole and cased hole DST’s, where the early time was fully masked with the high skin and wellbore storage.
5. Absence of post-stimulation linear flow regime can be attributed to high reservoir conductivity near the wellbore,
which should be verified with other reservoir data.
Compare files: Log-Log plot (dm(p) and dm(p)' normalized [psi2/cp] vs dt)
6. It is important to allow enough time for the well to recover from the fracturing fluids specifically when having
different flow units with varying performance. Insufficient recovery time will lead to underestimating the well true
7. Having a time lapse pressure build up test at different wellbore conditions can help in verifying the results and
resolving unusual response when coupled with reservoir simulation.


Southworth, A., El Hadidi, K., & Miller, J. (2013). An Integrated Approach to Rock Typing and its Impact on Well and
Reservoir Performance in a Middle East Tight Gas Field. 2013 SPE Middle East Unconventional Gas Conference &
Exhibition. Muscat: Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Tamar-Agha, M. Y. (2009). The Influence of Cementation on The Reservoir Quality of The Risha Sandstone Member (Upper
Ordovician), Risha Gas Field, NE Jordan. Journal of Petroleum Geology, 193-208.

Clark-Lowes, D. D. (2005). Arabian glacial deposits: recognition of palaeovalleys within the Upper Ordovician Sarah
Formation, Al Qasim district, Saudi Arabia. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, 331-347.

Gringarten, A. C. (1987). How To Recognize "Double-Porosity" Systems From Well Tests . Journal of Petroleum Technology.

Jordan, C. L., & Mattar, L. (2002). Comparison of Pressure Transient Behaviour of Composite and Two-Layered Reservoirs.
Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology.