Technical Paper: Changing the Shape of Fracturing: New Proppant Improves Fracture Conductivity

Society: SPE
Paper Number: 135360
Presentation Date: 2010
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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 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.

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