At Oxane Materials’ headquarters, signs tell workers to “challenge your assumptions.”
Now the company is out to challenge some of the industry’s assumptions about how much proppant can increase production after fracturing, as part of its campaign to commercialize “advanced ceramic proppant,” which gained notice as the industry’s first proppant created using nanotechnology.
As part of the process, Oxane has changed its slogan from “energy-focused nano-products” to “More oil, more gas, more quickly.”
“People are not buying it because it is nanotech; they are buying it because it works,” said Chris Coker, founder and chief executive officer of Oxane.
After a decade of quiet research and development, building up a library of more than 20 patents, Oxane has begun talking and presenting technical papers. Its first paper describing field testing with the proppant will be delivered at SPE’s Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.
The company faces a common challenge for innovative new products: It is difficult to persuade decision makers to pay more for a product based on the promise of greater production until there is a body of evidence that supports it. That is not easy given that results in unconventional formations are often uncertain because of hard-to-predict variations in a reservoir.
Oxane says its proppant is stronger pound-for-pound, and is rounder, smoother, more consistently sized, and even bounces farther than others. That last attribute is Oxane’s addition to reasons why some proppant works better than others. Oxane began studying the impact of that property, which it scientifically describes as the “coefficient of restitution,” after a researcher spilled some Oxane proppant and observed how it scattered more than other ceramics or sand.
The thinking is that this contributes to the ability of a proppant to travel farther in larger quantities, allowing the creation of more uniform proppant layers that lead to smoother, higher flows of oil and gas.
The company says it measured the coefficients of variation, friction, and restitution of its proppant and other proppants and compared the levels of saltation. It believes that smooth, uniform-sized balls are less likely to form a stable dune in a fracture, and its “tendency to bounce causes settling particles to re-suspend more easily and be carried farther,” according to the paper that will be presented at the SPE conference.
The comparison can be imagined as dumping a box of golf balls—the uniform, round, bouncy balls are not apt to form a stable mound—versus a box of potatoes—apt to form a stable pile. Oxane’s studies assume the water does not contain chemicals used to keep particles in suspension by increasing viscosity.