Fall 2010

Proppant Selection Plays a Major Role in Optimizing Well Production

collageAs hydraulic fracturing continues to grow, especially in shale plays, the industry has been attempting to establish laboratory testing parameters that assist operators and service companies in their effort to select the optimum proppant for a particular field application. Part of this effort is the development of the “long-term baseline conductivity laboratory test” for proppants. While this test is a huge leap forward in subjecting proppant to simulated downhole conditions, it still does not adequately address many additional factors that can impact the effectiveness of the proppant such as:

  • Proppant fines generation and migration in the fracture
  • Proppant resistance to cyclic stress changes
  • Proppant embedment in the fracture face
  • Proppant flowback and pack rearrangement in the fracture
  • Downhole proppant scaling

Most proppant choices are currently based on which one has the highest baseline conductivity, cost and availability. While this approach seems logical, it runs the risk of overlooking or under-valuing other critical factors affecting proppant performance in downhole environments.

To better define what constitutes the most effective proppant for a particular application, field cases have been developed that focus on the impact of proppant selection in a number of wells completed in various shale formations. The analysis examined the production history associated with a variety of proppant choices. In an effort to better understand the production results, a series of lab tests were performed on the proppants utilized in the field cases. These tests help determine how these factors (such as proppant fines, cyclic stress, embedment, proppant flowback and scaling) could explain and support the results of the field cases.

The details on the laboratory testing and field cases in these shale plays will be presented at the SPE ATCE in Florence, Italy. This is in support of our new technical paper, SPE 135502, titled “Proppant Selection and Its Effect on the Results of Fracturing Treatments Performed in Shale Formations.”


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