Development of a coupled dual continuum and discrete fracture model for the simulation of unconventional reservoirs

Ali Moinfar, Abdoljalil Varavei, Kamy Sepehrnoori, Russell T. Johns

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

197 Scopus citations


Accurate modeling of hydrocarbon production is a necessary, yet challenging step for economic exploitation of unconventional resources. One of the main challenges is to model flow to a horizontal well from a complex network of hydraulic and natural fractures. Many unconventional reservoirs comprise well-developed natural fracture networks with multiple orientations and complex hydraulic fracture patterns based on microseismic data. Conventional dual porosity and dual permeability models are not adequate for modeling these complex networks of natural and hydraulic fractures. Also, it is neither practical nor advantageous to model a large number of pre-existing fractures with a discrete fracture model. Therefore, an appropriate approach to model production from low-permeability reservoirs is to perform discrete fracture modeling for hydraulic fractures and employ a dual continuum approach for numerous natural fractures. We have developed a coupled dual continuum and discrete fracture method to simulate production from unconventional oil and gas reservoirs. Large-scale hydraulic fractures (macro-fractures) are modeled explicitly using a discrete fracture model, called EDFM, and numerous small-scale natural fractures (micro-fractures) are modeled using a dual continuum approach. The hybrid model includes three domains: matrix, discrete-fracture, and continuum-fracture domains. A systematic approach is devised to calculate transport parameters between all three domains. Moreover, EDFM allows for not only transverse and longitudinal hydraulic fractures but also macro-fractures of any orientation. Thus, the coupled model provides an effective and reliable environment to improve stimulation designs and completion strategies. We present several examples in this study to show the applicability, robustness, and performance of the hybrid method for the simulation of unconventional oil and gas reservoirs. We examine multi-stage hydraulic fractures with multiple configurations in the presence of numerous pre-existing fractures. Simulations show a noticeable contribution from natural fracture networks on total production. Furthermore, for the tight oil reservoir examined in this study, the stimulation scheme with longer hydraulic fractures improves cumulative oil production compared to the scheme with larger number of shorter hydraulic fractures. We also examine production from a tight gas reservoir wherein hydraulic fractures partially penetrate the formation height. Simulations indicate that inefficient fracture treatment can result in significant loss of production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSociety of Petroleum Engineers - SPE Reservoir Simulation Symposium 2013
PublisherSociety of Petroleum Engineers
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9781627480246
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013
EventSPE Reservoir Simulation Symposium 2013 - The Woodlands, TX, United States
Duration: Feb 18 2013Feb 20 2013

Publication series

NameSociety of Petroleum Engineers - SPE Reservoir Simulation Symposium 2013


OtherSPE Reservoir Simulation Symposium 2013
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityThe Woodlands, TX

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Modeling and Simulation


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