Partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (PHPA) friction reducer was investigated in produced water from hydraulically fractured wells in the Duvernay and Montney Formations of western Canada. Produced water from systems that used nonencapsulated breaker had little residual solids (<0.3 g/L) and high degrees of hydrolysis, as shown by Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. Where an encapsulated breaker was used, more colloidal solids (1.1–2.2 g/L) were found with lower degrees of hydrolysis. In this system, the molecular weight (MW) of polymers was investigated, which decreased to <2% of the original weight within 1 hour of flowback. This was accompanied by slow hydrolysis and an increase in methine over methylene groups. Increased polymer-fragment concentrations were found to be correlated with a higher abundance of metal-carrying colloidal phases. This can lead to problems such as higher heavy-metal mobility in the case of produced-water spills and can cause membrane fouling during produced-water recycling and reuse.
NOTE: An erratum has been issued for this paper and added to the PDF. A copy is also available under the Supplementary Data section.