Measuring Changes in Electrical Conductivity of Fractures from DC Resistivity Data in an Active Oilfield Environment: A Model Study for Surface-Based Data.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Chester J Weiss, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM, United States
Presented here are preliminary results of a numerical modeling study on the feasibility of using DC resistivity data to make useful inferences on depth, size and orientation of subsurface fracture systems in an active oilfield environment. Specifically, we consider an experiment where the steel-cased borehole (consisting of a shallow, vertical section and deep, horizontal section) is one electrode of the DC source, with the other source electrode grounded at the Air/Earth interface some distance away. For simplicity, the fractures are modeled as short sequence of vertical sheets intersecting the horizontal section of the well casing. Finite element analysis of this system shows that as fracture conductivity is elevated, two effects (at least) are observed: a local perturbation in the electric potential in the vicinity of the fracture set, with limited far-field expression; and, an overall change in the electric potential of the entire borehole casing due to current leakage at the site of the fractures. Under ideal conditions, our results suggest that far-field, time-lapse measurements of DC potentials surrounding a borehole casing can be reliably interpreted by simple, linear inversion for a Coulomb charge distribution along the borehole path, including a local charge perturbation due to the fractures. In contrast to regularized, nonlinear 3D inversion of broadband EM or DC data, this approach offers an inexpensive method for detecting and monitoring the time-evolution of electrically conducting fractures while ultimately providing an estimate of their effective conductivity – the latter providing an important measure independent of seismic methods on fracture shape, size, and hydraulic connectivity.