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Niobrara Horizontal Drilling: Increasing Well Production through Intelligent Planning


Horizontal drilling in the Niobrara formation within the Denver-Julesburg basin has uncovered many challenges that operators must take into account to develop successful drilling programs. Extensive faulting and structural dip along with varying reservoir quality and thickness make it difficult to target the best zones and properly develop the reservoir. So far, the horizontal drilling efforts throughout the basin have yielded inconsistent production results in comparable areas. These variable results are due to lack of understanding of the subsurface and not comprehending how to target the production zones correctly. However, new paradigms and technology are being employed in the DJ basin to increase horizontal well production and decrease drilling days to create successful and more profitable horizontal drilling programs. Preplanning with regard to reservoir characterization, lateral placement, and completions is critical to properly develop a Niobrara horizontal drilling program. Reservoir characterization requires creating accurate 3D structural framework models from well log interpretation and 3D seismic data. Additionally this model is used for sweet spot analysis using neural network seismic inversion, geostatistics, and reservoir simulation. The integrated 3D knowledge model gives insight to the sweet spots with regard to porosity, HPV, total organic content, and thermal maturity. Well bore planning from intelligent evaluation of the model allows the Niobrara to be properly targeted for structural geo-hazards along the length of the lateral for before drilling begins. Completions are enhanced by creating optimum well treatment types, sizes, and spacing based on the unique formation properties and geologic structures. Our preplanning efforts have had tremendous impacts to improve horizontal drilling production results by 30% in Wattenberg through targeting the best zones, properly placing the lateral portion of the well in the subsurface and drilling to plan. Dedicating time for accurate 3D subsurface interpretation, intelligent horizontal well planning, and completion optimization before the drilling process begins reduces cycle time, decreases drilling days, and maximizes production.