Hydraulic fracturing for economic production from unconventional reservoirs is subject to many subsurface uncertainties. One such uncertainty is the impact of natural fractures in the vicinity of hydraulic fractures in the reservoir on flow and thus the actual drained rock volume (DRV). We delineate three fundamental processes by which natural fractures can impact flow. Two of these mechanisms are due to the possibility of natural fracture networks to possess (i) enhanced permeability and (ii) enhanced storativity. A systematic approach was used to model the effects of these two mechanisms on flow patterns and drained regions in the reservoir. A third mechanism by which natural fractures may impact reservoir flow is by the reactivation of natural fractures that become extensions of the hydraulic fracture network. The DRV for all three mechanisms can be modeled in flow simulations based on Complex Analysis Methods (CAM), which offer infinite resolution down to a micro-fracture scale, and is thus complementary to numerical simulation methods. In addition to synthetic models, reservoir and natural fracture data from the Hydraulic Fracturing Test Site (Wolfcamp Formation, Midland Basin) were used to determine the real-world impact of natural fractures on drainage patterns in the reservoir. The spatial location and variability in the DRV was more influenced by the natural fracture enhanced permeability than enhanced storativity (related to enhanced porosity). A Carman–Kozeny correlation was used to relate porosity and permeability in the natural fractures. Our study introduces a groundbreaking upscaling procedure for flows with a high number of natural fractures, by combining object-based and flow-based upscaling methods. A key insight is that channeling of flow through natural fractures left undrained areas in the matrix between the fractures. The flow models presented in this study can be implemented to make quick and informed decisions regarding where any undrained volume occurs, which can then be targeted for refracturing. With the method outlined in our study, one can determine the impact and influence of natural fracture sets on the actual drained volume and where the drainage is focused. The DRV analysis of naturally fractured reservoirs will help to better determine the optimum hydraulic fracture design and well spacing to achieve the most efficient recovery rates.
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