By Mike Mueller
VP, Technology & Development
One of the most endearing aspects of working in a new industry segment, with new products introducing new capabilities into the marketplace, is the opportunity to be in at the start, to create the look, to establish a new way of doing things, to ‘write the book’.
Microseismic monitoring, and the engineering applications that follow from it, is just this sort of new industry. Even better, the commercialization of microseismic monitoring with both downhole and surface recording arrays happened in the same years as the scale-up of hydraulic fracturing across the U.S. and Canada. The new technology met the new need just as the new opportunity exceeded all expectations. The microseismic method is the best tool the industry has to characterize the volume of rock impacted by hydraulic fracturing. In other words: microseismic makes a difference, and MicroSeismic, Inc (MSI) has been an industry leading voice in creating and delivering that difference.
How did MSI get here? It began with the idea that microseismic monitoring could be extended from the established borehole technique to surface recordings. But, this was not proven 10 years ago and it relied on a different approach to detecting and characterizing the microseismic events, it would depend on imaging or seismic migration technology, rather than easy to see and easy to get compressional and shear wave arrival picking used in downhole recordings. MSI uses Passive Seismic Emission Tomography, or PSET, technology to detect and locate the events. This is combined with industry leading anisotropic calibration to ensure events are accurately positioned.
Could microseismic monitoring work from the surface? Could seismic processing techniques to manage noise, and migration techniques to detect and locate the events, work? The difference making came in the form of demonstrations in all of the big shale plays under development along with application of processing and imaging technology that required extending these methods beyond their original implementation in reflection seismology. The acquisition or monitoring geometries developed by MSI included a star like pattern uniquely adapted to the pad style drilling and completions favored by the shale operators. The pioneering realization that off the shelf, commercial seismic acquisition equipment could be used to get this done made the technique affordable. Another approach was the use of permanently installed recording grids that could be scaled to any size monitoring application up to and including field wide scale. With this approach it would now be possible to think of microseismic monitoring as a development tool to understand how effectively a shale operator was accessing the shale oil or gas across all their acreage.
Ultimately, MSI was successful at applying imaging technology to surface recorded data across many shale plays. Detectability from the surface could vary from play to play but was shown to be possible in all geological, drilling and completions circumstances in the shale marketplace. MSI was dramatically extending the microseismic method. MSI was making a difference.
Other new capabilities became apparent once the detectability question was answered and the surface technique was being widely applied. For example, it became obvious that the surface (2D) acquisition geometry, with its wide-azimuth, high-fold, and large aperture wavefield sampling, could readily characterize microseismic event source mechanisms, the way the rock ‘failed’ or moved when undergoing stimulation. This opened up many opportunities in geomechanics and engineering further extending the microseismic method.
With extensive shale market exposure, MSI was able to evaluate shale operator completions approaches, using its deep experience to help optimize stage and well spacing, maximize stimulated fracture area, determine which fractures are propped, predict shale matrix and fracture system permeability, and estimate the reservoir volume where the sustained production would be coming from. These capabilities bring microseismic monitoring into the completions and reservoir engineering domains making a difference to engineering shale play challenges to optimize production.
All of MSI’s monitoring approaches, whether surface or downhole, are available in real-time. With real-time it is possible for the shale operator to see the effectiveness of the frac design and stimulation at the time of completion. This enables the operator to manage the completions plan, to stay in zone, and to avoid geohazards. All this is available during the completion and with the accuracy and transparency operators need to trust and use the results to optimize their production.
Put together, what is the MSI difference? It’s the founder’s creativity, combined with the deepest experience, using the most extensive microseismic toolkit in the business, all focused on the highest value adding questions shale operators have. The MSI difference ensures shale operators are accessing all the hydrocarbons and maximizing production across entire acreage positions and for life of field.