Proppant Placement Using Alternate-Slug Fracturing
- Sahil Malhotra (University of Texas at Austintin) | Eric R. Lehman (University of Texas at Austin) | Mukul M. Sharma (University of Texas at Austin)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Journal
- Publication Date
- October 2014
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 974 - 985
- 2014.Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 3.2.3 Hydraulic Fracturing Design, Implementation and Optimisation, 2.5.2 Fracturing Materials (Fluids, Proppant), 5.3.2 Multiphase Flow, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating
- proppant , alternate-slug fracturing, viscosity, hydraulic fracturing, viscous fingers
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New fracturing techniques, such as hybrid fracturing (Sharma et al. 2004), reverse-hybrid fracturing (Liu et al. 2007), and channel (HiWAY) fracturing (Gillard et al. 2010), have been deployed over the past few years to effectively place proppant in fractures. The goal of these methods is to increase the conductivity in the proppant pack, providing highly conductive paths for hydrocarbons to flow from the reservoir to the wellbore. This paper presents an experimental study on proppant placement by use of a new method of fracturing, referred to as alternate-slug fracturing. The method involves alternate injection of low-viscosity and high-viscosity fluids, with proppant carried by the low-viscosity fluid. Alternate-slug fracturing ensures a deeper placement of proppant through two primary mechanisms: (i) proppant transport in viscous fingers, formed by the low-viscosity fluid, and (ii) an increase in drag force in the polymer slug, leading to better entrainment and displacement of any proppant banks that may have formed. Both these effects lead to longer propped-fracture length and better vertical placement of proppant in the fracture. In addition, the method offers lower polymer costs, lower pumping horsepower, smaller fracture widths, better control of fluid leakoff, less risk of tip screenouts, and less gel damage compared with conventional gel fracture treatments. Experiments are conducted in simulated fractures (slot cells) with fluids of different viscosity, with proppant being carried by the low-viscosity fluid. It is shown that viscous fingers of low-viscosity fluid and viscous sweeps by the high-viscosity fluid lead to deeper placement of proppant. Experiments are also conducted to demonstrate slickwater fracturing, hybrid fracturing and reverse-hybrid fracturing. Comparison shows that alternate-slug fracturing leads to deepest and most-uniform placement of proppant inside the fracture. Experiments are also conducted to study the mixing of fluids over a wide range of viscosity ratios. Data are presented to show that the finger velocities and mixing-zone velocities increase with viscosity ratio up to viscosity ratios of approximately 350. However, at higher viscosity ratios, the velocities plateau, signifying no further effect of viscosity contrast on the growth of fingers and mixing zone. The data are an integral part of design calculations for alternate-slug fracturing treatments.
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