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The presence or absence of natural fractures in unconventional shale reservoirs, along with stimulations required to enhance production, can have a large impact on production results. Fracture variation across a reservoir and throughout a lateral can be substantial, leading to large production variations, even in adjacent wells. Gaining insight about the natural fracture system can often help determine economic success.

A major operator in the Marcellus shale play wanted to characterize a long lateral section of reservoir to optimize production based on fracture-driven performance. Several wells had been drilled in this acreage and the operator knew that large production variances existed across the field. In addition, a high ROP/RPM drilling environment using oil-based mud (OBM) has historically limited borehole imaging quality. To get better insight and understanding of the geological environment of the field, the customer contacted Baker Hughes, a GE company (BHGE).

BHGE Drilling Services recommended a solution pairing the ImageTrak™ highresolution ultrasonic borehole imaging service with the AutoTrak™ Curve rotary steerable system to characterize the field’s natural fracture system.

Download the PDF to read the full case study.

Challenges & Results


  • Characterize extendedreach lateral for production optimization with zero impact on drilling performance
  • Acquire high quality borehole images at high ROP/RPM while drilling in oil-based mud


  • Acquired continuous 15,000 ft of high-quality borehole images in lateral section in one run while drilling in OBM
  • Exceeded 400 ft/hr ROP in some intervals
  • Identified incipient wellbore breakouts of varying width
  • Identified the orientation of formation beds, fractures and breakouts
  • Delivered an engineered stimulation program with insights derived from the combination of VAS with ImageTrak service