After hydraulically fracturing of shale gas wells, theoretical and experimental studies showed that over 75% of the injected water-based fracture fluids left unrecovered. The trapped water causes permeability damage and productivity impairment. The flowback water also tends to be highly saline, often with TDS contents of as much as 200,000 ppm. This study aims to investigate the effect of well shut-in before flowback stage (the soaking process) on the production of shale and tight sandstone formations.
Shale and sandstone samples were analyzed by X-ray diffraction (XRD). Marcellus shale and Kentucky sandstone cores were used. A modified core flood setup was used to allow porosity measurements by gas expansion method, then pulse decay permeability measurements, and fluid injection during the leak-off process. Nitrogen was used for gas expansion and permeability measurements, while 5 wt% KCl brine was used as representative of leak-off fracturing fluid. The fracturing fluid was injected under a constant pressure gradient (300 in the case of sandstone cores and 1,500 psi in the case of shale cores. After removing the pressure gradient, gas permeability was measured at different soaking times. Computed tomography (CT) was used to scan the cores during the experiment to observe the propagation of fracturing fluid in the core with time.
The results show increasing the regain permeability for sandstone formation was 60% of its initial value directly after the leak-off stage. Then, the regain permeability decreased with increasing the soaking time 38% of its initial value after the core completely invaded with leak-off fluid. The regain permeability was then increased with longer soaking time, as a result of reducing the chocking effect at the core inlet. The propagation rate of water saturation front from CT-scan data decreased with time until reaching the core outlet. The regain permeability on shale cores was 0.14 of its initial value and decreased with soaking time, due to depressed relative permeability curve on this tight pore-space cores.
This study addresses the mechanism of production enhancement or reduction as a result of the soaking process for shale and tight sandstone formations.