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SPE 94249

Development of Low-Permeability Carbonate Reservoir by Use of Horizontal Wells in

Mature South Umm Gudair Field in the Neutral ZoneA New Approach
M. Jha, SPE, T. Tran, B. Hagtvedt, M. Al-Haimer, and M. Al-Harbi, Joint Operations, Saudi Arabian Texaco/
Kuwait Oil Co.

Copyright 2005, Society of Petroleum Engineers

This paper was prepared for presentation at the 2005 SPE Production and Operations
Symposium held in Oklahoma City, OK, U.S.A., 17 19 April 2005.
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of
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presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to
correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any
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Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836, U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435.

The South Umm Gudair (SUG) oil field located in the Neutral
zone between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia has produced since
1968 from an active water drive carbonate reservoir of Lower
Cretaceous age. The lower zones are homogenous intervals of
higher permeability which appear to be sufficiently swept by
natural water drive over a period of time. The upper zones of
the reservoir are more heterogeneous and have lower
permeability in the range of 50-150 millidarcies. These upper
zones are relatively thin and are bound by tighter intervals that
act as effective barriers to the natural water drive system. Due
to the presence of barriers and low permeability intervals,
these zones have been poorly swept resulting in significant
volumes of by-passed oil remaining in these parts of the
The new approach of exploiting these reserves by drilling
and completing 4 horizontal and 2 horizontal side track (HST)
wells targeting the lower permeability portions of the reservoir
in the SUG field since January 2004; have yielded
considerable success in extracting significant incremental oil
production with the added benefit of very low water cut. This
success has led to field development plan to recover un-swept
oil reserves from these low permeability zones. This paper
summarizes the various aspects of field development plan
taking into consideration geology, reservoir data and
production data while highlighting the successes of the new
horizontal and HST wells in the low permeability reservoir
portions of the SUG field.
The SUG field was discovered in 1966, and put on production
in 1968. The primary recovery mechanism is a combination of

edge and bottom water drive aquifers. The field has been
developed initially by vertical wells targeting all productive
zones; which have been perforated and produced commingled.
The SUG field today produces approximately 70,000 Barrel of
Oil Per Day (BOPD) and 80,000 Barrel of Water Per Day
(BWPD) from 64 active oil wells, out of which 23 are
horizontal and HST wells. All wells are produced by artificial
lift using Electrical Submersible Pump (ESP). Location and
structure maps of the field are shown in Fig.1 and Fig.2.
Carbonate Reservoir
The Ratawi Oolite carbonate reservoir is an anticlinal
structural trap. The Early Cretaceous reservoir section was
subjected to folding during the Late Cretaceous and Tertiary
times associated with compressional events. The dominant
carbonate lithologies consist of pelloidal/skeletal grainstones
with lesser amounts of packstones, wackestones and minor
mudstones. The Ratawi Oolite section at SUG is considered
to have been deposited on a very broad, shallow, carbonate
platform. Deposition occurred in inner ramp tidal flat, lagoon,
and higher energy ramp crest environments.
Deeper water more micritic lithologies, associated with
flooding events at the base of these depositional cycles, form
important reservoir barriers across large portion of the field.
Low energy, tight, shallow shelf mudstone and wackestones of
Upper Ratawi Oolite formation overlie the porous reservoir
The upper and the lower part of the reservoir are fairly
different with respect to formation characteristics. The lower
zones (M4 to M12) are relatively homogeneous with
permeabilities ranging from 300 to 400 millidarcies. The
upper zones (M1 to M3b) of the reservoir are more
heterogeneous and have lower permeabilities ranging from
50-150 millidarcies (called Low Permeability Reservoir).
These intervals have a fining upward lithologic signature, as
evidenced from the open hole logs of the wells. The reservoir
layers are illustrated in the cross-section shown in Fig. 3.
Several potential barriers are known to affect the vertical
communication within the reservoir. Most of these barriers
appear to be local, but at least two of these tight vertical
barriers of fairly wide lateral extension have been identified in
the reservoir. Barrier-1 is within the Low Permeability

Reservoir (Intra M3b) of upper zone, and Barrier-2 is in the

Lower zones (M5/M6) of the high permeability intervals.
These barriers have been identified and confirmed through
the use of formation pressure data from Repeat Formation
Testers (RFTs) and Modular Dynamic Testers (MDTs).
Monitoring this data through time, show a growing pressure
difference across these identified barriers, as shown in Fig. 4.
These two barriers can be traced all over the field based on
open-hole logs as illustrated in Fig. 5. The lateral extension
and sealing effect of these barriers across the field are still not
understood completely, however, the significant pressure
difference in certain areas around the field seem to indicate
quite an effective seal or barrier to flow. Typical core data for
a SUG well is shown in Fig. 6.
Reservoir Development
The SUG field was initially developed using vertical wells
only. All productive zones in the vertical producers were
perforated and produced together. Production Logging Tools
(PLTs) run to evaluate production have shown generally poor
contribution from the upper reservoir zones. Recent open hole
logs from new wells indicate that the lower part of the
reservoir with higher permeability, have mostly been swept,
however the upper zone with lower permeability has bypassed oil remaining, due to its poor sweep efficiency. Due to
the combination of low permeability and isolation by barrier,
oil reserves in the upper layers could never be recovered
effectively and economically by existing or additional vertical
wells. The original reservoir pressure of 4,050 psi has dropped
to the current average reservoir pressure of 2,200 psi. This
reservoir pressure is not sufficient enough to produce oil from
low permeability zones by existing vertical wells. This
phenomenon is observed through out the field regardless of
structural positions.
The current reservoir pressure of 2,200 psi is still high
above the bubble point pressure of 900 psi. This is due to,
there being sufficient aquifer support thus not necessitating
implementation of pressure maintenance through the use of
water injection. Further more, water injection in this type of
heterogeneous reservoir often affects the parts of the reservoir
with the least resistance to flow, the layers having higher
permeability. Thus, the Low Permeability Reservoir which has
by-passed oil, would still not get much benefit from water
The vertical wells were drilled on 80 acres spacing in SUG
field till the end of 2003. The review of the field performance
indicated some signs of production interference between the
wells. Based on plots and analyses of various well test and
reservoir data, it has been determined that 80 acres is the
optimum spacing for vertical well development to minimize
production interference between wells. Therefore, additional
vertical locations within SUG field can not be considered, as
the productive area is already filled with wells drilled on a
density of 80 acres spacing.1
The drilling of horizontal and HST wells began in year
2000, with the objective to mitigate the water conning

SPE 94249

problems prevalent across the field in the vertical wells. The

first horizontal wells were initially designed to target both the
low permeability and high permeability layers. These wells
were very successful in increasing the field oil production and
reserve recovery; however, water began to show up after a
phase of good production period. The subsequent reservoir
surveillance data indicated that the source of water is primarily
from the high permeability layers.
This information and analysis resulted in a new approach
of development of the SUG field which began in January
2004. The new approach was to drill horizontal and HST wells
targeting only the Low Permeability Reservoir. These new
horizontal wells were drilled mostly along the flank of the
SUG fields anticlinal structure on about 120 acre spacing.
The justification for targeting the flank portion of the reservoir
is primarily to recover oil reserves in the upper low
permeability layers in areas, where vertical wells had been
producing with high water cuts from the lower high
permeability layers. Candidates for these re-entry HSTs are
selected from existing vertical wells showing history of
producing high water cuts and low oil production from the
lower zones.
As the target Low Permeability Reservoir layer is
relatively thin (thickness varying from 15 to 30 feet) and
having proximity to bottom water fronts, special horizontal
well drilling applications using Geo-steering technology had
to be employed to assure keeping drain hole within the
targeted layer.2 Real Time Measurement While Drilling
(MWD), Logging While Drilling (LWD) accomplished with
the latest Geo-steering modeling services were used during
lateral placement of horizontal well bores.
Horizontal Well Performance Prediction
The performance prediction study of the SUG field's
horizontal wells in this Low Permeability Reservoir was
carried out using a simplified simulation model.3-4 The model
was built using the application of Eclipse to be able to focus
on uncertainties related to development of a reservoir with
limited formation thickness. The objective of the model was to
evaluate the dynamics around the new producer well bores
during the first few months after putting the well on
production and to verify the level of protection from identified
barriers against vertical water movement.
Average formation characteristics, relative permeability
data and the fluid model are taken from an abandoned full
field simulation model of the SUG field. This model
represents a dynamic unit that includes the target Low
Permeability Reservoir level and the higher permeability
reservoir unit directly below as shown in Fig. 7. The model
grid contains 6 layers, Layer-1 to Layer-6 from top to bottom.
Layer-1 is just above the target pay, Layers 2, 3 & 4 are within
the target pay and Layers 5 & 6 are below the target pay. The
reservoir characteristics of the various layers are based on
available field data and are shown in Table-1. The layers
below the barrier, have experienced water breakthrough,
though not fully swept. Illustration of how the water cone
builds up under the horizontal section of the well after 6

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months of production is shown in Fig. 8. The flow barrier in

the upper section of the reservoir is modeled by a
transmissibility reduction between grid Layer-3 and Layer-4.
Based on available core and pressure data, Barrier-1 does not
seal completely and is in pressure communication with the
lower reservoir layers. Water from the lower layers could
invade Barrier-1 if the pressure difference became high
enough. However, this has not happened since the inception of
production in 1966 and is unlikely to happen in the future. The
retained transmissibility of the barrier was also verified by
comparing simulated pressure differences across the barrier
with pressure differences observed on recent MDT data.
The model was initialized to match average static bottomhole pressure from recent monitoring data. The simulation
grid was made big enough to ensure adequate pressure support
during production to avoid artificial depletion effects. Lateral
water movement caused by an edge aquifer was not taken into
consideration as it would require a history matched model.
The model includes a well with a horizontal section of
1,500 feet landed in the middle of Layer-2. In order to test the
impact of several uncertain parameters, various runs were
made to understand the evolution of water production during
the initial months of production. The two most important cases
(Case-A and Case-B) are based on the expected formation
characteristics given in the Table-1. The only difference
between the two scenarios (Case-A and Case-B) is the sealing
capacity of the Barrier-1. The Case-A has a vertical
transmissibility estimated from core data, while Case-B has
ten times higher transmissibility than Case-A in the same
The simulation model predicted early water coning
breakthrough. However, the model also indicated that
horizontal wells recovered oil reserves more efficiently with a
high oil production rate as compared to a low oil production
rate which delays water conning.
Well Planning and Geosteering Modeling
The typical plan for the new horizontal well in SUG field is to
first drill a high angle (about 50-60 degree inclination) pilot
hole to verify the lateral target and oil water contact. The
open hole logging data of the pilot hole and off-set wells are
utilized to build a Geosteering model, taking account of
apparent dip, stratigraphic position, electrical anisotropy,
polarisation and shoulder bed boundary, until best fit of
modeled log response, verses actual log data, is achieved. The
final out put is predicted Resistivity, Density, Porosity and
Gamma Ray log curves along the proposed horizontal
trajectory of the well bore.
The most common geological uncertainty in the SUG field
is structural dip. Therefore, a Geo-steering model is built with
variable structural dip change scenarios
(+/- 0.5 to +/- 1.0
degree). The lateral placement strategy for the horizontal well
bore in new and HST wells, is to put the lateral in the most
porous and permeable part of the target reservoir while staying
above the barrier. The primary objective is to obtain optimum
oil production rate and delay the production of water from

water conning breakthrough.

During the course of landing and lateral drilling inside the
target reservoir, Real Time MWD and LWD data
supplemented by Geo-steering is transferred and
communicated between the Asset Management Team (AMT)
and well-site personnel. This is done in order to monitor
progress of well bore path so that rapid and real time decisions
can be made to ensure success in staying inside the target
zone. A typical display of MWD and LWD logs with a Geosteering Model is illustrated in Fig. 9.
Drilling and Completion
One of the critical factor for the success of the horizontal new
drills and HSTs in the Low Permeability Reservoir is the
proper selection of a drilling fluid. This is due to the target
zone lithology having much smaller grains and pore throat
size, which can be easily damaged by an improper drilling
mud system.
The drilling fluid system used in the SUG field consists of
a water based mud mixed with Calcium Carbonate as a
bridging agent and a simple polymer system of XCD and
Starch. The Calcium Carbonate particles in the fluid are
properly sized based on the permeability and pore throat size
of the target pay, in order to form a bridge across the pore
throat and to quickly build a filter cake to minimize spurt and
fluid losses. During lateral drilling, the fluid loss in the mud is
maintained at 4 to 5 cc/30 min and drill solids content is
controlled at less than 25 lbs/barrel. The FloPro NT mud
system of MI Drilling Fluid with a re-refined XCD polymer
and Starch was selected to further minimize fluid loss during
drilling of the lateral.
After the total depth of the well is reached, the drilling
fluid and cuttings are displaced with a clean completion fluid.
The open-hole lateral is then stimulated utilizing Coiled
Tubing with 15% Hydrochloric acid at about 30 gallons per
foot of well bore length and emulsified with diesel as a
diverting agent to remove drilling filter cake and near wellbore damage. Subsequently an Electrical Submersible Pump
(ESP) is run and the well is put on production.
Monitoring Production History
From January to July 2004, a total of six 6 horizontal new
drills and HSTs (Wells A, B, C, D, E, F) were drilled and
completed in the Low Permeability Reservoir of the SUG oil
field. The cumulative initial test production from these six
horizontal wells is about 20,000 BOPD with about 3% water
cut (average of 3,300 BOPD/well IP). These results are very
encouraging when compared to production of vertical wells in
the same reservoir, which average 300500 BOPD with about
50% water cut.
Although the production history is short and the data being
monitored is limited to production rates and bottom-hole
pressures from ESP, the comparison of real production data
and simulation results are consistent to date. The plot of
water-cut versus cumulative oil production (Fig. 10) compares
simulated data with real production data. The only anomaly

thus so far has been that, Well-C experienced water

breakthrough earlier than predicted by the simulation model.
This however, is explained by the fact that, this well is located
on the edge of the reservoir and is likely affected by lateral
water movement. The production of the wells in the central
part of the field fit very well and is very consistent with the
models simulated water-cut.
The consistency between the simulated and real data
indicates that, the barrier does form an effective seal and is
laterally extensive. This also supports the idea that the upper
reservoir interval above the barrier could be treated as a
dynamic independent unit. The simplified model indicates that
vertical water movement resulting in water conning will occur
within the initial few months after putting new horizontal
wells on production. This model does not include for lateral
water movement that could occur. The lack of robustness of
the simulation model consequently makes it inadequate for
predicting expected oil recovery and reserves. Therefore, the
expected oil reserves per well for these horizontal wells has
been estimated by simple plotting techniques and is estimated
to about 2 Million Barrels of Oil (MMBO) (see Fig. 11).
The success of the horizontal drilling and side track program
targeting the remaining/trapped/by-passed oil in the Low
Permeability Reservoir layers of South Umm Gudair field
have resulted in reducing the production decline for this
mature field. The success of optimum horizontal well
performance has been realized through:
1) Optimized well placement using Geo-steering technology.
2) Use of proper drilling and completion fluids.
3) Team work between Asset Management Team members,
Drilling/Work-over teams and Directional drilling service
This innovative method demonstrates that different
thinking and strategies utilized and applied to mature fields
can result in significant improvements in reserve recovery and
This success has also led to a development plan and
strategy of additional horizontal drilling locations in the flank
areas and side tracking of existing wells to maximize recovery
of un-swept oil from the Low Permeability Reservoirs in
South Umm Gudair field.
The authors thank the management of Joint Operations, Saudi
Arabian Texaco-Kuwait Oil Company for their permission to
publish the paper.
Suggestions of Khaled Al-Ali,
Superintendent and review by Kevin Lahay, of Joint
Operations are gratefully acknowledged. We acknowledge the
modeling support provided by J.Ray of Schlumberger.

SPE 94249



Giger, F.M., "Low-Permeability Reservoirs Development

Using Horizontal wells", SPE 16406
Arnold, C.W., Djauhari, H.H., "Review of Early Horizontal
well Applications in Central Sumatra", SPE 29288
Fonseca, C.M., et al, "Reservoir Study of the Largest Oil
Field in Argentina A Two Reservoir 2200 Well
Simulation Model", SPE 90952
Sherman, B.B.,et al "Case Study: Development of a
Comprehensive Simulation Model for a Large Middle
Eastern Carbonate in Kuwait and the Partioned Neutral
Zone, Kuwait", SPE 68098

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Madan Jha works as Asset Management Team Geologist for Joint
Operations, Saudi Arabian Texaco- Kuwait Oil Company. He holds a
MS degree in Applied Geology from IIT University of Roorkee, India.
Madan has 19 years Industry experience, the initial 14 years with Oil
India Ltd ex Burmah Oil Company UK as Senior Geologist working for
Onshore Oil & Gas fields and Offshore Exploration project before
joining Joint Operations in 1999. He is member of Petroleum
Exploration Society of Australia (PESA) and Society of Petroleum
Engineers (SPE). Thanh Tran works as Asset Management Team
Leader and Senior Petroleum Engineer for Joint Operations, Saudi
Arabian Texaco- Kuwait Oil Company. He holds a BS degree in
Petroleum Engineering from University of Tulsa, USA. Thanh has 23
years Industry experience in Production operation, Reservoir
management, Horizontal drilling and Geosteering. Brd Hagtvedt
works as Asset Management Team Senior Reservoir Engineer for Joint
Operations, Seconded from TOTAL-Kuwait to Kuwait Oil Company. He
holds a MS degree in Reservoir Engineering from the Technical
University of Trondheim, Norway.
Brd has 14 years industry
experience as a Reservoir Engineer for TOTAL which includes:
Reservoir management, Field monitoring, Field operations and
Numerical Simulation.
Mohammad Al-Haimer works as Asset
Management Team Senior Reservoir Engineer for Joint Operations,
Saudi Arabian Texaco- Kuwait Oil Company. He holds a BS degree in
Petroleum Engineering from University of Southern California, USA.
Al-Haimer has 7 years industry experience in Field operations &
monitoring, Reservoir management and Numerical Simulation.
Musaad Al-Harbi works as Asset Management Team Geologist for
Joint Operations, Saudi Arabian Texaco- Kuwait Oil Company. He
holds a BS degree in Geology from Kuwait University. Musaad has 13
years Industry experience as a Development Geologist with Saudi
Arabian Texaco. He is member of American Association of Petroleum
Geologist (AAPG) and Society of Petroleum Well Log Analysts

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Fig. 12D Structure map

Fig. 23D Structure map

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Fig. 3Cross-section through reservoir layers

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Fig. 4MDT data: increasing pressure difference across

the two identified barriers

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Fig. 5Distribution of Barriers

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Fig. 6Core data


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Fig. 7Phenomenological model: Cross-section

Initial conditions

Fig. 8Phenomenological model: Illustrations how

The water cone builds up under
the horizontal section of the well after
6 months of production

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Fig. 9Geosteering model: Horizontal display

of MWD-LWD logs


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Fig. 10Comparison of simulated data and

historical production data for the three
first wells

Fig. 11Expected oil reserves for the three wells

With longest production history