Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

MRST-Shale: An Open-Source Framework for Generic Numerical Modeling of Unconventional Shale and Tight Gas Reservoirs

Version 1 : Received: 7 January 2020 / Approved: 9 January 2020 / Online: 9 January 2020 (09:59:37 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Wang, Bin; Fidelibus, Corrado. 2021. "An Open-Source Code for Fluid Flow Simulations in Unconventional Fractured Reservoirs" Geosciences 11, no. 2: 106. Wang, Bin; Fidelibus, Corrado. 2021. "An Open-Source Code for Fluid Flow Simulations in Unconventional Fractured Reservoirs" Geosciences 11, no. 2: 106.


We present a generic and open-source framework for the numerical modeling of the expected transport and storage mechanisms in unconventional gas reservoirs. These unconventional reservoirs typically contain natural fractures at multiple scales. Considering the importance of these fractures in shale gas production, we perform a rigorous study on the accuracy of different fracture models. The framework is validated against an industrial simulator and is used to perform a history-matching study on the Barnett shale. This work presents an open-source code that leverages cutting-edge numerical modeling capabilities like automatic differentiation, stochastic fracture modeling, multi-continuum modeling and other explicit and discrete fracture models. We modified the conventional mass balance equation to account for the physical mechanisms that are unique to organic-rich source rocks. Some of these include the use of an adsorption isotherm, a dynamic permeability-correction function, and an embedded discrete fracture model (EDFM) with fracture-well connectivity. We explore the accuracy of the EDFM for modeling hydraulically-fractured shale-gas wells, which could be connected to natural fractures of finite or infinite conductivity, and could deform during production. Simulation results indicates that although the EDFM provides a computationally efficient model for describing flow in natural and hydraulic fractures, it could be inaccurate under these three conditions: 1. when the fracture conductivity is very low. 2. when the fractures are not orthogonal to the underlying Cartesian grid blocks, and 3. when sharp pressure drops occur in large grid blocks with insufficient mesh refinement. Each of these results are very significant considering that most of the fluids in these ultra-low matrix permeability reservoirs get produced through the interconnected natural fractures, which are expected to have very low fracture conductivities. We also expect sharp pressure drops near the fractures in these shale gas reservoirs, and it is very unrealistic to expect the hydraulic fractures or complex fracture networks to be orthogonal to any structured grid. In conclusion, this paper presents an open-source numerical framework to facilitate the modeling of the expected physical mechanisms in shale-gas reservoirs. The code was validated against published results and a commercial simulator. We also performed a history-matching study on a naturally-fractured Barnett shale-gas well considering adsorption, gas slippage & diffusion and fracture closure as well as proppant embedment, using the framework presented. This work provides the first open-source code that can be used to facilitate the modeling and optimization of fractured shale-gas reservoirs. To provide the numerical flexibility to accurately model stochastic natural fractures that are connected to hydraulically-fractured wells, it is built atop other related open-source codes. We also present the first rigorous study on the accuracy of using EDFM to model both hydraulic fractures and natural fractures that may or may not be interconnected.

Supplementary and Associated Material Source code of MRST-Shale


shale gas; MRST; embedded discrete fracture model; open-source implementation


Engineering, Energy and Fuel Technology

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