Changing the Shape of Fracturing: New Proppant Improves Fracture Conductivity
- Gregory Austin McDaniel (Apache Corp.) | Jonathan Abbott (Schlumberger) | Fred A. Mueller (Schlumberger) | Ahmed Mokhtar Anwar (Schlumberger) | Svetlana Pavlova (Schlumberger) | Olga Nevvonen (Schlumberger) | Thomas Parias (Imerys Oilfield Minerals) | Jean Alary (Imerys Oilfield Minerals)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, 19-22 September, Florence, Italy
- Publication Date
- Document Type
- Conference Paper
- 2010. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 5.1.1 Exploration, Development, Structural Geology, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 2.4.3 Sand/Solids Control, 3.1.3 Hydraulic and Jet Pumps, 5.1.2 Faults and Fracture Characterisation, 1.4.3 Fines Migration, 4.3.4 Scale, 5.6.4 Drillstem/Well Testing, 5.3.2 Multiphase Flow, 2.5.1 Fracture design and containment, 4.3.1 Hydrates, 3 Production and Well Operations, 2.5.2 Fracturing Materials (Fluids, Proppant), 2.2.2 Perforating, 3.2.3 Hydraulic Fracturing Design, Implementation and Optimisation, 3.1.2 Electric Submersible Pumps, 5.1 Reservoir Characterisation
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Hydraulic fracturing is used extensively to increase hydrocarbon production from oil and gas formations. Hydraulic fracture conductivity is a key parameter in optimizing the productivity of a well after the fracture treatment. The American Petroleum Institute (API) proppant permeability / fracture conductivity testing results are frequently used in industry fracturing models when selecting the proppant that provides the optimum fracture conductivity for a well's particular reservoir properties. This design methodology invariably results in a lower than expected fracture conductivity and in many cases, lower than optimum well performance. The industry has recognized that actual fracture conductivity is often a small fraction of what would be expected by using API test results. Non-Darcy flow, multiphase flow, gel damage, stress cycling, fines migration, proppant embedment, proppant flowback, and fracture cleanup are some of the parameters that result in fracture conductivities significantly lower than those measured in an API conductivity test.
A new proppant was developed to improve the final fracture conductivity achievable with high-strength spherical proppants currently available in the market place. This new product is an elongated rod-shaped, high-strength particle with integrated proppant flow back control.
Initial field testing of the product was conducted in moderate permeability formations where production from prior fracture treatments indicated lower than optimum fracture conductivity. Production results from these field tests confirmed that substantial increases in fracture conductivity can be achieved. The large improvement seen in fracture conductivity can be attributed to increased porosity of the proppant pack and reduced fracture conductivity losses due to non-Darcy and multiphase flow effects.
Completely changing the typical geometry of proppants used in hydraulic fracturing is a viable option for improving the conductivity of hydraulic fractures to a point not currently obtainable with spherical proppants.
As reported in J.B. Clark's Standolind Oil Company publication (Clark J.B. 1949) on hydraulic fracturing, retaining conductivity of the created fracture is an important part of the process. One of process requirements suggested by Clark J.B. was that the hydraulic fracturing fluid be able to carry a propping agent in suspension, such as sand so that as the fracture closes a conductive flow channel will remain. Another requirement was that the fracturing fluid be sufficiently thin after the job that it will flow out of the fracture and not stay in place and plug the fracture it formed. This paper was presented in January 1949. Many improvements have been made in the hydraulic fracturing process over the last 60 years. Improving fracture conductivity by improving propping agents and fracturing fluids has been part of this improvement evolution.
Over the years a large amount of work has gone into the research and development of fracturing fluids that minimize the damage to the proppant pack created by the fracturing fluid. Some of the significant developments through the years include the use of derivatized guars, lower polymer concentrations, viscoelastic technology, fiber transport and encapsulated breakers.
The next big step change in the fracturing process involving proppant technology was Exxon Company's 1977 publication on the use of sintered bauxite as a propping agent(Cooke, Claude E. et al.). Exxon performed 17 field tests using the sintered bauxite material in wells with depths ranging from 10,000 ft to 16,000 ft. Based on the results, the company concluded that substantial economic benefit could be obtained with this new proppant. The use of ceramic proppants in the hydraulic fracturing market over 30 years later is widespread and a well accepted technology in the industry.
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