Optimising well orientation in hydraulic fracturing of naturally fractured shale gas formations

Joseph Sherratt, Amin Sharifi Haddad* (Corresponding Author), Filip Wejzerowski, Roozbeh Rafati

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Complex interactions between hydraulic fractures and natural fractures often result in highly complex fracture networks that might lead to bypassed resources damaging the economic viability of developments. In this study the impact of natural fractures of the formation on production from hydraulically fractured wells is studied using a recently developed fracture upscaling method (FUM). By capturing the distribution of complex fracture networks using FUM, a novel idea of changing the well orientation to optimise recovery is proposed. It is shown that with a natural fracture spacing of 15 m a small change in well orientation up to 30° from the standard orientation can increase the recovery by up to 15% for natural fractures at an angle of at least 60° with σhmax. The increased recovery is a result of the natural fractures and stress orientation complementing each other to assist the propagation of hydraulic fractures deeper into the formation. It is also shown that as natural fracture density increases (fracture spacing decreases) the effect of changing the well orientation becomes more significant. Changing the well orientation when there are two perpendicular planes of natural fractures is also investigated. However, no optimal orientation can be found in these cases, suggesting there needs to be a strong average directionality of the natural fractures in the reservoir to support a beneficial well orientation change. A simple economic analysis shows a small well orientation change can allow a larger well spacing which could lead to a direct reduction in the cost of developing a shale reservoir. The results also show the positive effect this has on the NPV of the project with different gas prices, and a rapid positive NPV status reducing the risk of investment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104141
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Natural Gas Science and Engineering
Early online date9 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to thank the School of Engineering at the University of Aberdeen for financial support and providing the required facilities to complete the study. Support from the Computer Modelling Group and Schlumberger for the use of their software packages is greatly acknowledged. This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.


  • Hydraulic fracturing
  • Horizontal well orientation
  • Natural fractures
  • Optimisation


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