Wet Sand Fracturing Technique, Argentina | SLB

Wet sand fracturing pilot project reduces CO2e in Argentina

Vaca Muerta Basin, Argentina, South America, Onshore

By applying a wet sand technique to replace kiln-drying, an operator saw opportunity to eliminate more than 20,000 metric tons of CO2e/yr by avoiding consumption of 3.6927E+14 J/yr in natural gas. The method reduced the cost per metric ton of processed sand and removed dust on location, which improved HSE.

Vista Energy is an independent company that operates shale oil and gas blocks located in the Vaca Muerta Basin and has become the second largest shale oil producer in Argentina. To support its goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2026, the company seeks innovative, cost-effective methods to reduce CO2e in its daily operations.

At the core of its operations is the fracturing process, an area that Vista identified to reduce emissions while conserving energy during the handling of sand. Unconventional fracturing requires processing large volumes of sand. Typically, before moving the sand to a job site, it is washed to remove contaminants and then dried and sieved. During the drying phase, the sand is run through industrial-sized kilns often powered by natural gas, diesel, or propane.

Vista challenged operations to remove the drying step from the sand treatment process, which would reduce emissions associated with operating the kilns and the cost of sand processing. To tackle the challenge, Vista required SLB to address high moisture content in the sand, which makes it difficult to deliver precise measurements to its blender before pumping downhole.

SLB created a tailored solution that adapted a POD™ programmable optimal density blender to mix sand with higher moisture content. The adaptation included adjustments to the POD blender’s hopper and gate design, plus adding extra functionalities such as shakers. The team worked in conjunction with a third-party sand delivery company to ensure the proper concentration was pumped during the job. A pilot test was conducted before integration into the fracturing stage design. SLB, together with Vista and the proppant management company, successfully completed pumping the first wet sand jobs in Argentina.

Sand drying operations using the wet sand technique at the Vista Energy work site in Argentina.
Sand-drying operations in Argentina using the fit-for-purpose POD blender.

A measurement of the pilot test’s success revealed that by applying the wet sand technique, Vista could reduce more than 20,000 metric tons of CO2e per year by avoiding the consumption of 3.6927E+14 J/yr in natural gas—thus, reducing cost per metric ton of processed sand. The increased moisture content of the sand at the work site also improved HSE conditions by reducing dust in the air. The results were a deciding factor for Vista to proceed with POD blender adaptations on all of its available pads where location and job design support the use of wet sand.

Job report for a successful stage using wet sand at the Vaca Muerta work site in Argentina.
A job report shows a successfully completed stage using wet sand at the Vaca Muerta work site.

"Innovation is an ability to see and convert changes into opportunities, a cornerstone and foundation of Vista's 5-year history. Deploying the wet sand methodology in Argentina was only possible through teamwork between suppliers that demonstrated their leadership and commitment to doing things differently and better, to produce low-cost, low-carbon, and sustainable energy for the future.”

Miguel Galuccio, Founder and CEO, Vista Energy