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SPE-171656-MS

Analysis of Chemical Tracer Flowback in Unconventional Reservoirs


Ahmad Salman and Basak Kurtoglu, Marathon Oil Company; Hossein Kazemi, Colorado School of Mines

Copyright 2014, Society of Petroleum Engineers


This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE/CSUR Unconventional Resources Conference - Canada held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 30 September
2 October 2014.
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents
of the paper have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect
any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper without the written
consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may
not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of SPE copyright.

Abstract
Because of the need to quantify hydraulic fracture effectiveness, injection of chemical tracers in
unconventional reservoirs has increased in popularity. Typical tracers are oil or water-soluble chemicals,
which are injected into the formation along with the fracturing fluids. The tracers should invade a
significant portion of the stimulated rock volume (SRV). The tracer backflow could shed light on the
effectiveness of the hydraulic fracturing process and the SRV size.
Emulsion tracers and controlled-release tracers are the two tracer types currently used in the industry.
This paper presents application, implementation and analysis of tracer flowback in unconventional
reservoirs to determine individual stage flow patterns. The tracer flowback response is also of value in
assessing the probable effectiveness of various enhanced oil recovery protocols in unconventional
reservoirs. We present two field examples from Bakken and Eagle Ford formations to demonstrate the
value of information obtained from the interpretation and analyses of tracer flowback.

Introduction
Hydrogeology and geothermal disciplines used tracers to characterize solute transport in aquifers and
fractured geothermal rocks before oil industry began to use tracers for reservoir characterization. The early
tracers were radioactive tracers, which garnered negative attention due to the risks associated with
handling and disposal of radioactive material. Current tracers are water, oil or gas soluble chemical
tracers, which are environmentally safe.
In conventional reservoirs, tracer injection is used to assess the displacement efficiency if enhanced oil
recovery projects. In unconventional reservoirs, tracer flowback analysis is used to determine the
effectiveness of the hydraulic fracture stimulation and the connectivity of fractures created by well
stimulation.
We present flowback tracer test interpretation for multi-stage horizontal wells in ultra-low permeability
unconventional reservoirs (1) to evaluate completion and stimulation effectiveness and (2) to determine
the extent of inter-well connectivity of the fracture network. The latter information is an important
parameter in decisions regarding well spacing for primary production and EOR planning.

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Figure 1Schematic of tracer type and characteristics.

Tracer Types
Chemical tracers are compounds soluble in water, oil or gas phase, and can be either liquid or solid.
Tracers must be stable under reservoir conditions, have minimum partioning into other phases, no
adsorption on the reservoir rock, must have a very low detection limit, and must only have minimal
environmental side effects (Dugstad, 2007). Aqueous non-charged radioactive tracers include tritiated
water (HTO) and methanol (CH2TOH). Aqueous chemical tracers include thiocyanates (SCN) and
fluorobenzoic acids (Dugstad, 2007). Oil soluble tracers include alkyl esters, which partition in oil and
water (Deans and Carlisle, 2007). However, Spencer et al. (2013) use hydrocarbon tracers that form
unstable emulsions in the hydraulic fracturing fluids and dissolve in oil or gas upon contact with formation
fluids. These tracers are used in evaluation of multi-stage fracturing operations. Gas tracers include sulfur
hexafluoride (SF6). Solid tracers are mixed with polymers to form compounds that release tracer at a
steady rate in the formation.
Typical tracers used in fracture evaluation include:
1. Emulsion tracers: Water and oil-soluble tracers injected with the hydraulic fracturing fluids.
2. Perforation tracers: Heavy metal solid tracers for high temperature environment associated with
perforating charges used in cemented plug-and-perf fracturing operations.
3. Controlled-release tracers: Tracer-polymer compounds, placed outside of liner, which release
tracers upon contact with formation fluids.
Figure 1 provides a schematic of tracer placement methods, and Table 1 summarizes tracer use and
characteristics. The majority of tracer tests in unconventional reservoirs use emulsion tracers because
these tracers reveal information (1) about the inter-well connectivity, and (2) fracture system and flow
pattern. These tracers do not require well shut-in and are more economical than the controlled-release
tracers are. In this paper, we report on the use of emulsion tracers in unconventional reservoirs, their
implementation, and analyses of flowback data.

Tracer Test Operational Procedures


The emulsion tracer test consists of injecting uniquely identifiable oil-soluble chemical tracers in
individual hydraulic fracture stages of an injector well. The tracer tests can be implemented in horizontal
wells with open-hole swellable packer with sliding sleeves or cemented plug-and-perf completions. One
gallon of liquid oil-soluble tracer is placed in the slick water pumped into the formation ahead of the
cross-linked gel and proppant slurry injection. The one-gallon of tracer is diluted in approximately 4,000
barrels of total fluid injected into each stage. This dilution results in a concentration of 5 ppm.
After hydraulic fracture stimulation of the injector well, both the injector and offset producer well
(monitor well) are produced. The distance between the injector and producer well is defined by the
development plan for well spacing which varies between 350 ft (Eagle Ford) to 1,400 ft (Bakken). Oil

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Table 1Tracer types and their characteristics


Tracer Type

Uses

Pros

Cons

Emulsion

Flow pattern analysis

Fracture intensity identification

Inter-well communication

Frac fluid migration

Zonal reservoir and completion


characterization

Short-term

Tracer volume limitation

Potential false -negative


contribution

Perforation contribution

Perforation efficiency

Inflow characterization

Tracer volume limitation

Inflow analysis

Accurate zonal inflow estimation

Long-term inflow monitoring

Single-well characterization

Perforation

Controlled-release

samples are collected at the surface facilities from both wells. The samples are then analyzed for tracer
in each oil sample for some time (e.g., 30 days).
At the end of tracer test, one obtains the following data from the injector and monitor wells:
Percent of tracer recovered relative to the amount of tracer injected
The amount of tracer recovered from each stage normalized by the total amount of tracer recovered
from the stage.

Interpretation
Inter-well tracer tests provide fundamental information on the flow pattern communication characteristics
between injector and producer wells as well as the reservoir properties by analyzing the flow trajectories
between the injector and producer and the tracer flowback observed through time. Interpretation of these
data depends on several key parameters including (1) tracer type (2) injector scheme and well pattern, and
(3) well completion and stimulation practices. These parameters drive the differences in interpretation of
tracer flowback data between unconventional and conventional reservoirs.
1. Emulsion tracers provide short-term reservoir monitoring of about 30 days, while controlledrelease tracer tests provide a longer-term quantitative measure of the inflow performance for each
frac stage. The latter is similar to production logging tool (PLT).
2. In conventional configuration, an aliquot of tracer, referred to as a slug, is injected into one well
while the production well (monitor well) receives tracer. In the unconventional configuration,
both injector and monitor wells become tracer producers after tracer injection is complete in one
well. Specifically, tracer is injected during hydraulic fracturing phase in one well and recovered
from both wells during production phase. Figure 2 represents the configuration of conventional
and unconventional tracer tests.
In conventional reservoirs, vertical wells are commonly used to inject tracer while in unconventional reservoirs, both injector and producer wells are multi-stage horizontal wells. In conventional
reservoirs, tracer is injected in vertical wells below fracture pressure gradient. In unconventional

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Figure 2Conventional and unconventional tracer field test methodology.

reservoirs, first a monitor well is stimulated with hydraulic fractures without the use of tracers.
Then, a neighbor well is stimulated with hydraulic fractures and tracer is injected into the fractures
above fracture pressure gradient in the slick water. The tracer breakthrough occurs within days for
conventional configuration while it occurs in minutes to hours per stage in unconventional
configuration.
3. The well completion method may affect the tracer recovery. For instance, the open-hole slidingsleeve completion provides a larger area for tracer distribution compared to the cemented liner
with plug-and-perf completion (Figure 3). In the swellable packer, sliding sleeve multi-stage
system, the horizontal wellbore is left as an open hole. The packers are set to isolate sections of
the wellbore into individual stages. Sliding sleeve stimulation ports are run between packers,
which can be opened hydraulically. Cemented plug-and-perf technology involves cementing the
production casing in the horizontal wellbore. Stage-to-stage isolation in the liner is accomplished
by setting bridge plugs, followed by perforating and then fracturing the well at each stage
(Appleton and Rivenbark, 2013).
In this paper, we focus on emulsion tracer applications in multi-stage horizontal wells. Depending on
the natural fracture intensity and geomechanical properties, the stimulated volume could contain complex

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Figure 3Open-hole swelllable packer with sliding sleeve completion has more contact area with the formation than the cemented plug-and-perf
completion.

Figure 4aSchematic of Scenario 1.

Figure 4bSchematic of Scenario 2.

Figure 4cSchematic of Scenario 3.


Figure 4dSchematic of Scenario 4.

fracture network or planar fractures. This defines the flow pattern in the reservoir and the tracer response.
Several scenarios are presented below (Figure 4).
Scenario 1: Both the injector and monitor wells recover tracer (Figure 4a)
Interpretation: Hydraulic stimulation during completion generated a conductive hydraulic fracture.
This enables the tracer to be carried to the producer well while remaining open to allow tracer flow back
to the injector well.
Analysis: Tracer flowback curves at the producer can be analyzed for inflow characteristics.
Scenario 2: None of the well recover tracer (Figure 4b)
Interpretation: The stimulated area around the corresponding stage at the injector has conductivity so
large that is able to propagate the injected tracer beyond both the injector and monitor wells.
Analysis: Not available.
Scenario 3: Only monitor well recover tracer (Figure 4c)
Interpretation: The hydraulic fracture is conductive enough to transport the injected tracer to the
producer well. The interpretation of no or limited tracer recovery at the injector well could be closure of
the conductive hydraulic fracture that carried the tracer to the monitor well.
Analysis: Tracer recovery at the producer well can be analyzed as in Scenario 1.
Scenario 4: Only injector well recover tracer (Figure 4d)
Interpretation: Tracer injected into the reservoir during the hydraulic stimulation is locally contained.
This may be due to the hydraulic stimulation not being effective enough to propagate a hydraulic fracture
in the rock the stage is currently placed in, instead creating a complex, localized fracture network that does
not behave as a fracture similar to a long, bi-wing fracture.

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Figure 5A schematic of a multi-stage horizontal well in a highly fractured reservoir and the tracer recovery curve.

Figure 6 A schematic of a multi-stage horizontal well in a sparsely fractured reservoir and the tracer recovery curve.

Analysis: Tracer concentration curves can be interpreted qualitatively but quantitative analysis cannot
be performed since tracer propagation to the reservoir is not known.

Qualitative Analysis of Tracer Response


Analysis of the tracer production curve often provides insight about the flow pattern and fracture intensity
of the reservoir. The following illustrates the expected variances in the tracer recovery for both highly and
sparsely fractured reservoirs.
Highly Fractured System
This type of reservoir has a high density of natural micro-fractures that are enhanced even more with
hydraulic fracturing. Tracers will respond as traveling within a homogenous system, with a smooth curve
and identifiable peak. The enhanced fractured area drives the overall system response, behaving as a single
system. Figure 5 presents the schematic of this reservoir for a well stimulated with open-hole, swellable
packer with sliding sleeve completion and a depiction of the tracer flowback curve.
Sparsely Fractured System
In this kind of reservoir, multi-stage fracturing is even more crucial to provide economical flow rates due
to a poor distribution of natural fractures. As hydraulic fracturing occurs during tracer injection, multiple
fractures are dilated and propagated within the stimulated area. One would expect multiple, superimposed
distributions to reflect a multi-fractured system. Figure 6 depicts a reservoir for a well stimulated with a
cemented plug-and-perf completion and an example case of how four fractures carrying the same tracer
at varying dispersion rates may look like, adapted from Fossums two fracture model (Fossum 1982).
Although qualitative analysis can provide insight about the degree of fracturing in the stimulated
reservoir volume within which tracer travels, it is also necessary to calculate conductivity and dispersivity

SPE-171656-MS

of the stimulated reservoir system in order to quantify the effectiveness of the hydraulic fracture
stimulation.

Tracer Transport Model


In unconventional reservoir production cycle, the hierarchy of flow is from low-permeability matrix to
micro-fractures, to macro-fractures, to hydraulic fractures, and finally to the wellbore. The degree of flow
between each segment of the porous media area depends on the matrix and fracture properties such as
permeability, porosity, and post-stimulation fracture intensity. The common feature of any unconventional
reservoir is the ultra-tight matrix permeability which limits the flow from matrix to fracture -- especially,
in the early life of a well.
Numerous analytical and numerical models for describing tracer transport in aquifers and petroleum
reservoirs have been reported (Deans 1963, Kreft and Zuber 1978, Fossum 1982, Jensen 1983, Rivera et
al. 1987, Ramirez et al. 1988, Lange et al. 2005, Bodin et al. 2003, Walkup and Horne 1985, Coronado
et al. 2004, 2007). The mass transfer term between fractures and the matrix is the distinguishing feature
between these publications.
Tracer transfer from fractures to matrix can occur, even in reservoirs with porosities less than 5%
(Bodin et al. 2003). However, the degree of tracer loss into the matrix can be negligible if the following
conditions are met (Kreft and Zuber 1978, Bodin et al. 2003, Coronado et al. 2004, 2007):
Tracer transport velocity through the fractures is greater than the transfer velocity from fractures to
matrix
Analysis is performed on short term data where initial loss of tracer into the matrix is minimal
Low matrix porosity and permeability that slows the rate of tracer transfer
Increased fracture spacing and intensity that enables rapid transport of tracer through the reservoir
In our applications, emulsion tracers are used for short-term analysis (~30 days), hydraulic fracture
treatment enhances the micro-fracture network, micro-fracture porosity is ~0.1% and early term flow is
dominated by fractures due to nano-darcy matrix permeability. As a result, employing the single media
model will provide an adequate estimate to characterize the tracer transport mechanism.

Mathematical Model
The analytical model we utilized was developed by Ramirez et al for a reservoir composed of two regions:
a mobile region where diffusion and convection occurs and an immobile region where only diffusion and
adsorption are allowed (Ramirez et al. 1988, Rivera et al. 1987). The mobile region is defined as the
fracture pathway where tracer flows through. Figure 7 depicts the slab model that assumes no or limited
mass transfer of tracer from the fracture to the matrix rock as the tracer is swept and propagated within
the rock between the injector and monitor wells. The model describes the behavior of tracers in a one
dimensional linear reservoir subject to convection and dispersion.
The main assumptions for the model include:
1. No production of tracer chemical species within the reservoir
2. Instantaneous slug injection for a short period of time
3. Tracer transport in the fractures is due to diffusion and convection
4. Tracer distribution across fracture width can be assumed constant due to efficient transverse
diffusion and dispersion
5. Constant density
6. Diffusion only in the y direction for tracer transport in the matrix
7. Reversible adsorption with a linear adsorption isotherm
8. The porosity or diffusion coefficient for the matrix region is very small

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Figure 7Diagram of an ideal tracer transport model in a fracture-matrix system.

9. Velocity in the fracture region is very large


Equation 1 is the analytical solution (model) for tracer production (Kreft and Zuber 1978; Ramirez
1988).
[1]
[2]
Where:
C0 Initial tracer concentration (ppm)
x Distance away from tracer source (ft)
L Distance between tracer source and monitor point (ft)
D Dispersion coefficient (ft2/day)
u Advective velocity (interstitial flow velocity) (ft/day)
The distance between source and monitor wells is accurately known. The interstitial flow velocity, u,
can be estimated by calculating the mean of the tracer recovery curve distribution to identify the mean
time multiple fractures transporting tracers took to arrive at the monitoring point. The two variables that
can be tuned to fit the field data are the linear scaling parameter associated the tracer recovery C0, and the
Peclet number, Pe. History matching of tracer response is obtained by minimizing an objective function
(OF) which is the sum of squares of the calculated and measured concentrations (Ramirez Sabag et al.
2005 and 2012):
[3]
Where:
{1, . . . k} parameter set that minimizes OF, which for our problem are C0 and Pe
C calculated concentration
c measured concentration

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Figure 8 Key formations in Bakken and Eagle Ford petroleum system.

Field Example
Two tracer field tests from Bakken and Eagle Ford are presented below to demonstrate the value of
information obtained from the tracer flowback data. The details of relevant information appear in the
following sections:
1. Reservoir Characterization and Development
2. Tracer Injection and Flowback Interpretation
3. Tracer Modeling
4. Linking Long-term Well Production to Tracer Tests
Reservoir Characterization and Development
The Bakken formation was deposited during the Upper Devonian and Lower Mississippian periods in an
offshore marine and coastal regime environment. The Eagle Ford is a Late Cretaceous age organic- and
carbonate-rich marine deposit. Stratigraphically, the Bakken formation is comprised of three members: the
lower member, the middle member, and the upper member while the Eagle Ford is divided into two units,
upper and lower.
The upper and lower members of the North Dakota Bakken formation consist of a dark-gray to
brownish black, organic-rich shale (Pitman et al., 2001) while the lithology of the Middle Bakken varies
widely from clastics (including silts, and sandstones) to carbonates (primarily dolomites). The upper and
lower members of South Texas Eagle Ford Formation contains laterally continuous, dark grey, organic
matter-bearing, fossilliferous marls interbedded with limestones (Driskill et al., 2012). During the initial
development phase, the target lateral landing zone is the Middle Bakken formation for Bakken and the
Lower Eagle Ford formation for Eagle Ford. Figure 8 represents the stratigraphy, lithology, and target
drilling zone for both Bakken and Eagle Ford.
Bakken is a locally sourced reservoir because the hydrocarbon source (Upper and Lower Bakken) is
adjacent to the reservoir (Middle Bakken). The upper and lower members are organic-rich, with total
organic carbon (TOC) contents averaging 25 to 28 percent over large parts of the basin (Tran, 2011). The
middle member is organic-poor, with TOC contents of 0.1 to 0.3 percent by weight (Price, 1999). In the
study area, the reservoir formation, Middle Bakken, has an average porosity of 4 6%, water saturation
around 50% and a thickness varying from 30 60 ft.
Eagle Ford is a self-sourced reservoir since the hydrocarbon source is an integral part of the reservoir
in both Upper and Lower Eagle Ford. The lower member with TOC content averaging 4% has been the
primary formation to develop. However, the upper member with an average 2% TOC content has been of
current interest with improved completion technology. The Lower Eagle Ford has an average porosity

10

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Figure 9 Fracture intensity count in cores (Nelson, 2012)

varying between 8 10%, water saturation averaging 35%, and a thickness varying from 100 170 ft,
while the Upper Eagle Ford has an average porosity of 6%, water saturation averaging 50%, and a
thickness varying 10 60 ft.
Besides geological differences between Bakken and Eagle Ford, the rock and fluid properties also vary
that result in differences in production performance. Bakken is a black oil system with varying gas-oil
ratios in the basin, while Eagle Ford covers the entire fluid region including black oil, volatile oil, gas
condensate, and dry gas due to maturity and structural differences.
Nelson (2012) completed a fracture characterization study in both Bakken and Eagle Ford to
investigate existing fracture properties. He combined the horizontal cores of known wellbore azimuth,
borehole image logs, and the data from the published literature to identify fracture origin, orientation, and
intensity. In Bakken, basin displays a dominant NE to ENE fracture trend and NE for Eagle Ford. He
calculated fracture intensity analyzing a core and an image log from the same interval in a well and created
fracture intensity curves for each important horizon within the well separately. Figure 9 shows the results
of this study showing average fracture intensity for Baken and Eagle Ford formations. As seen, Bakken
has greater fracture intensity to start with in its source rocks compared to Eagle Ford, which enhances the
fluid flow.
Tracer Injection and Flowback Interpretation
In this section, Bakken and Eagle Ford emulsion tracer data is presented. As mentioned in the Interpretation section, there are several key parameters affecting interpretation of tracer recovery data.
Although the same tracer type is used in both reservoirs, the completion differs in Bakken and Eagle Ford
multi-stage horizontal wells. Bakken horizontal wells are completed with open-hole, swellable packer
with sliding sleeves compared to Eagle Ford wells with cemented plug-and-perf completion. Figure 3
demonstrates the differences between these two completion types. An open-hole, swellable packer with
sliding sleeve completion has a large reservoir contact area, composed of the annular space between the
production casing and reservoir. However, the reservoir contact area in a cemented plug-and-perf
completion created during perforation discharge is drastically smaller relative to the open-hole completion. Table 2 summarizes the completion and stimulation for both injector and producer (monitor) wells
in Bakken and Eagle Ford.
As seen in Table 2, Eagle Ford wells contain double the amount of proppant and frac fluid with slightly
larger stage spacing compared to the Bakken wells. Both Bakken wells are black oil with a GOR of 1200
mscf/stb while Eagle Ford wells are in a volatile oil window with a GOR of 2000 mscf/stb. Another
difference is the well spacing in Eagle Ford and Bakken. The Eagle Ford injector and monitor wells are
spaced 460 ft away while the well spacing is 1400 ft for Bakken wells. Considering high fracture intensity

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11

Table 2Completion Parameters


Formation
Bakken

Well Type
Injector
Monitor

Eagle Ford

Injector
Monitor

Completion
Type

Stage
Count

Stage
Spacing (ft)

Lateral
Length (ft)

Total Fluid
Volume (BBL)

Total Proppant
Volume (Mlb)

Open hole swellable


packers with sliding sleeve
Open hole swellable
packers with sliding sleeve
Cemented
plug-and-perf liner
Cemented
plug-and-perf liner

30

296

8,869

54,860

2,970

30

294

8,807

51,130

3,582

17

345

5,864

98,860

6,930

17

339

5,760

79,860

5,209

Table 3Tracer flowback summary in Bakken and Eagle Ford


Bakken

Eagle Ford

Tracer Data

Injector

Monitor

Injector

Monitor

Maximum Flowback Tracer Concentration (ppm)


Total Number of Stages Producing Tracer
Maximum Tracer Peak Count per Stage

0.0107
27
4

0.0012
12
5

0.0044
7
10

0.0044
4
7

of the Bakken and an open-hole, swellable packer with sliding sleeve completion, it is more likely to see
greater tracer recovery in the overall system.
In both applications, one gallon of tracer is diluted in the injected fluid into each stage. The initial tracer
concentration for the stages in the Bakken well is approximately 14 ppm and 5 ppm in Eagle Ford due
to the difference in frac fluid volume per stage. Table 3 includes the information about the average
maximum tracer concentrations recovered per well, the number of stages recovering tracer and the
maximum peak count observed in the tracer flowback curves. The same information but stage-by-stage
is included in the Appendix (Table A1: Tracer Type and Initial Concentration per Stage; Table A2:
Maximum Tracer Concentration Recovered per Stage; Table A3: Tracer Peak Count per Stage).
The Bakken injector well recovered higher tracer concentrations than Eagle Ford, while the recovery
in the monitor wells is the highest in Eagle Ford. The potential reasons for higher tracer recovery in the
monitor well in the Eagle Ford may be driven by closer well spacing compared to the Bakken.
Furthermore, the higher tracer recovery identified in the Bakken injector well may be attributed to a more
localized stimulated fracture network, containing tracer within a smaller distance away from the wellbore.
Overall, per stage recovery in both injector and monitor wells in Bakken is more than that of the Eagle
Ford wells. However, looking at the peak count in the tracer recovery curves, Eagle Ford wells exhibit the
highest tracer peak counts. This may indicate the occurrence of sparsely distributed fractures being created
in Eagle Ford while Bakken behaves as a single, homogeneous fractured system by recovering tracer as
a smooth tracer concentration curve.
For a closer look at the tracer response, we selected four fracture stages which recovered the largest
amount of tracer (Table 4). The tracer recovery information in Table 4 refers to four scenarios introduced
in Fig 4.
Stage 3 and 4 of the Eagle Ford monitor well received the highest tracer concentrations (scenario 3)
but nothing at the injector well, with a tracer peak count of 6. Stage 11 and 17 of the Bakken monitor well
received the highest tracer concentrations, which was also recovered at the injector well (scenario 1), with
a tracer peak count of 5. For the injector wells, stages 8 and 11 in the Eagle Ford and stages 22 and 27
recovered tracer at the highest concentrations compared to other stages. Figure 10 represents the tracer
concentration curves for these stages.

12

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Table 4 Four fracture stages recovering the largest amount of tracer in Bakken and Eagle Ford
Tracer Recovery Scenarios
Eagle Ford

Stage

Injector

Monitor

3
4
8
11

--Yes
Yes

Yes
Yes
---

Bakken

Scenario

Tracer Peak
Count

Stage

3
3
4
4

6
6
9
4

1
17
22
27

Injector

Monitor

Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

Yes
Yes
Yes
--

Scenario

Tracer Peak
Count

1
1
1
4

6
6
9
4

Figure 10 Tracer flowback response in the Eagle Ford and Bakken injector and monitor wells.

Differences between tracer flowback curves include (1) lower tracer concentrations recovery in the
injector well from the Eagle Ford and (2) higher tracer flowback recovery in the monitor well from the
Eagle Ford. Higher variability (a larger peak count) in the tracer concentration in both wells is observed
in the Eagle Ford while Bakken wells tracer flowback exhibits a smoother tracer concentration curve.
Tracer Test and Model Results
Tracer recovery curves from the selected stages shown in Figure 10 from Bakken and Eagle Ford are
analyzed using tracer transport model (Eq. 1) and optimization algorithm (Eq. 3). Considering the
assumptions of the transport model, we can only analyze tracer recovery curves at the monitor well. Figure
11 includes the tracer concentration curves matched with the model response and a table that summarizes
the matched parameters.

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13

Figure 11Tracer data and model results

Both stages from the Bakken monitor well have a greater velocity and dispersion coefficient, compared
to the Eagle Ford. These results indicate that although tracer concentration peak reaches up to a higher
value in Eagle Ford, the overall fracture system of the Bakken is more conductive to carry tracers even
further out to the monitor well (1,400 ft). The increased peak count in Eagle Ford in both stages may be
indicative of the amount of fractures created during stimulation, behaving as discrete fractures in the Eagle
Ford. The smooth concentration curves in the Bakken stages suggest that the system is responding as a
single fractured system with an enhanced flow pattern.
Long-term Well Production
In this section, the long-term production of each well is reviewed to be able to relate their performances
to the stimulated reservoir volume. The multi-phase production data analysis (Eq. 4) (Kurtoglu, 2013,
Kazemi et al., 2014 and Eker et al., 2014) is used to analyze the flow regimes and calculate the effective
permeability, fracture half length, and stimulated reservoir volume. The linear flow plots the normalized
pressure, q/qt, versus square root of time, t as follows:
[4]

Where:

14

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Figure 12Multi-phase linear flow plot for Bakken and Eagle Ford injector and monitor wells.
Table 5Summary of results from multi-phase production data analysis
Reservoir

Well Type

ml
(psi/rb/t1/2)

Bakken

Injector
Monitor
Injector
Monitor

0.400
0.429
0.571
0.583

Eagle Ford

kf,eff t
(mD/cp)

skin

SRV (acre)

yf(ft)

0.0130
0.0164
0.1659
0.0610

0.10
0.17
2.34
0.17

254
210
18
29

624
518
68
109

[5]

Figure 12 demonstrates the multi-phase linear flow plots for the injector and producer wells from
Bakken and Eagle Ford.
As observed in Figure 12, the Bakken wells exhibit a lower linear flow slope and remain in linear flow
longer than the Eagle Ford wells. Table 5 summarizes the results from multi-phase production data
analyses for all of the wells. The analysis assumes a composite boundary around the wellbore to calculate
the fracture half-length and stimulated reservoir area.
Both injector and monitor wells have larger calculated SRVs, resulting from a longer linear flow period
in the Bakken. The reservoir connectivity and SRV in the Eagle Ford wells are limited, exhibiting a
smaller fracture half-length and calculated mobility. Figure 13 shows the rate profile and percentage of
initial injected tracer volume recovered.
The initial rate profile of the Bakken injector and monitor wells indicate higher deliverability of the
reservoir due to highly fractured region in the near vicinity of the wellbores. However, the Eagle Ford
wells start with a lower initial production rate, indicating a poorly connected, less fractured reservoir. The
higher connectivity in the Bakken may allow further tracer dispersion in the reservoir compared to a
sparsely fractured Eagle Ford reservoir, which can be identified with lower tracer volume recovery at the
Bakken injector well. Even with the lower tracer amount recovered at the Bakken injector, tracer was
carried approximately 1,400 ft to the monitor well. The higher tracer recovery in the Eagle Ford monitor
well may also confirm that sparsely distributed fractures, created by the hydraulic stimulation, are
conductive flow paths capable of carrying tracer at a distance of approximately 450 ft. However, the
greater tracer flowback in the Eagle Ford injector indicates that limited tracer transport occurred
potentially due to a poorly connected fracture system.
Combining the observations from short-term tracer recovery analysis regarding the fracture network
pattern (highly fractured versus sparsely fractured) and observations from long-term multi-phase fluid

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15

Figure 13Oil flow rate and the percentage of initial injected tracer volume recovered for Bakken and Eagle Ford wells.

flow analysis concerning reservoir flow capacity


and stimulated area, one can easily characterize the
reservoir between wells and unconventional plays.

Discussion and Conclusions


Tracer flowback curves and the mathematical models from emulsion tracer test data suggest that the
Bakken stimulated rock volume behaves as a single,
highly conductive fracture system while the Eagle
Ford test results show that the tracer responses are
indicative of sparsely distributed fractures with a
lower overall dispersivity.
Results from microseismic test data acquired
during the stimulation of the Eagle Ford monitor
and injection wells reveal that slurry and fracture
propagation carrying tracers throughout the reservoir are discrete features capable of extended distances greater than 1000 ft in length. Figure 14 Figure 14 Microseismic response from the Eagle Ford tracer wells.
shows the microseismic results from the Eagle Ford
injector and monitor well stimulations. The microseismic data bolsters results identified by the tracer
flowback curves, indicating that tracer are moving through sparsely distributed fractures within the SRV,
and these discrete fractures are capable of carrying tracer beyond the distance of both injector and monitor
wells, leading to the scenario of no tracer recovery in either well.

16

SPE-171656-MS

Figure 15Square root of time plots for Eagle Ford and Bakken exhibiting different SRV geometries (Kurtoglu et. al, 2013)

Figure 15 shows the linear flow plots of three wells, including Bakken black oil, Eagle Ford volatile
oil, and Eagle Ford gas condensate, and the conceptual fracture pattern (SRV schematic) for each case
(Kurtoglu et al., 2013). The geometry of SRV for each case was obtained by history-matching well
production. This information about SRV size and shape are also confirmed by the results from tracer
injection tests and the multi-phase linear flow diagnostic plot. Bakken tracer flowback and multi-phase
linear flow analyses identify that the fractured medium is a single, conductive system with a large SRV,
shaped as a continuous, composite fractured region surrounding the wellbore completed with an open-hole
swellable packer with sliding sleeve completion. In contrast, the Eagle Ford tracer flowback and
multi-phase linear flow analyses point to sparsely distributed fractures contained in a smaller SRV, shaped
as separate, isolated stimulated regions surrounding each fracture stage of a cemented plug-and-perf
completion.
Understanding how to interpret the results of an emulsion tracer test can provide further valuable
information that identifies how a particular completion type or design affects the reservoir rock. Current
industry practices are moving towards catering completion design for a particular reservoir in order to
radically improve resource recovery. However, current techniques to measure the resulting difference due
to a change in a completion method are either cost prohibitive or yield only a small number data points,
such as the case of a production log. Utilizing an emulsion tracer injection test may be able to identify
whether the resulting change in a completion method created a difference in fracture intensity, conductivity, SRV shape or size on a stage-by-stage basis, which currently cannot be accurately determined
through total well production analysis or single production log results.
Identifying the geological heterogeneity within multi-stage horizontal well can also be accomplishing
using the emulsion tracer injection test. By completing each stage with the same completion method as
well as injecting the same fluid and proppant volumes, comparing the tracer recovery results of each stage
can allow you to characterize the reservoir contained within a stage. This can then be tied to lateral log
data in order to understand the direct effect that a particular completion design has on a type of rock,
which may result in varying tracer recovery scenarios, peak counts or estimated dispersivities.
In conclusion, this study attempts to understand the various forms of information that can be extracted
from emulsion tracer flowback test results.

SPE-171656-MS

17

Tracer type selection is paramount due to the fact that tracer test interpretation must vary for each
tracer type.
Multi-stage horizontal well completion methods have an effect on emulsion tracer recovery results.
Tracer recovery data from emulsion tracer injection tests from the Bakken and Eagle Ford has
identified that the Bakken is a highly fractured system and the Eagle Ford is sparsely fractured
system.
Combined tracer recovery data and multi-phase linear flow analysis results show that the SRV
shape and geometry for a multi-stage horizontal well is a continuous, composite SRV in the Bakken
and a discrete, isolated SRV surrounding each fracture stage in the Eagle Ford.
Tracer recovery quantitative and qualitative analysis can be extended to identify the varying effects
of different completion methods as well as the heterogeneity and variance in geology.

Acknowledgements
The authors acknowledge the support received from Faisal Rasdi, Bakken asset team, Eagle Ford
Integrated Project Team (IPT), Eagle Ford asset team and Marathon Oil Company.
Nomenclature
C
: tracer concentration (ppm)
E
: linear scaling parameter associated with production rate
x
: distance away from injector well (ft)
L
: distance from injector to monitor well (ft)
D
: constant dispersion coefficient (ft2/day)
u
: constant convective speed (ft/day)
Pe
: Peclet number
: dimensionless distance
xD
: dimensionless time
tD

: optimization parameter in parameter set


: reservoir compressibility, (1/psi)
ct
keff : effective system permeability), (md)
q
: oil production rate, (BBL/D)
Q
: cumulative production, (BBL)
:average reservoir pressure, (psi)
pwf : bottom-hole well pressure, (psi)
t
: time, (day)

: system porosity, %
h
: formation thickness, (ft)
: number of fracture stages
nf
: fracture half-length, L (ft)
yf

: fluid mobility, (md/cp)


pwf : flowing bottomhole pressure, FL2 (psi)
: formation volume factor, L3t1 (BBL/D)
qt
t
: total phase mobility, L3t/m (md/cp)
ct,m : total matrix compressibility, L2F1 (1/psi)
: total fracture compressibility, L2F1 (1/psi)
ct,f
t,m : matrix porosity, fraction
t,f : fracture porosity, fraction
kf,eff : effective fracture permeability, L2 (md)

18

SPE-171656-MS

: time (days)

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20

SPE-171656-MS

Appendix

Table A1Tracer type and initial concentration based on one gallon of liquid tracer

Stage Number

Tracer

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q

* Tracer concentration based on 1 gallon of tracer

Initial
Concentration*
(ppm)
5.01
4.96
4.95
4.91
4.91
4.90
4.90
4.88
4.87
4.85
4.85
4.82
4.75
4.73
4.69
4.35
3.45

Stage Number

Tracer

Initial
Concentration*
(ppm)

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30

A
A
A
A
A
A
B
B
B
B
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
C
C
C
C
C
A
A
B
B
E
E
C
C

16.00
15.87
17.35
12.24
17.44
17.47
17.29
17.44
16.56
17.18
16.91
16.45
11.09
10.03
10.34
10.33
10.25
10.23
10.47
10.31
10.23
10.31
10.27
10.44
18.19
18.27
18.20
12.72
12.82
11.06

SPE-171656-MS

21

Table A2Maximum Tracer Concentration Recovered per Stage


Bakken
Stage
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30

Eagle Ford

Injector

Monitor

Injector

Monitor

0.0008
0.0008
0.0009
0.0006
0.0009
0.0009
0.0012
0.0012
0.0011
0.0599
0.0034
0.0033
---0.0021
0.0021
0.0135
0.0138
0.0136
0.0135
0.0136
0.0005
0.0005
0.0012
0.0012
0.0634
0.0443
0.0169
0.0146

----------0.0027
0.0026
---0.0016
0.0016
0.0006
0.0006
0.0006
0.0006
0.0006
------0.0008
0.0006

----0.0075
0.0009
-0.0142
0.0018
-0.0023
0.0021
----0.0021

0.0003
-0.0116
0.0056
0.0001
-------------

22

SPE-171656-MS

Table A3Tracer Peak Count per Stage


Bakken
Stage
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30

Eagle Ford

Injector

Monitor

Injector

Monitor

1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
---1
1
3
3
3
3
3
1
1
1
1
4
4
3
3

----------5
5
---5
5
5
5
5
5
5
------5
5

----9
8
-9
4
-10
3
----4

1
-6
6
7
-------------