Fracture fluid damage caused by residual polymer gel in propped fractures results in low fracture conductivity and short effective fracture length, sometimes severely reducing the productivity of a hydraulically fractured well. The residual gels are concentrated in the filter cakes built on the fracture walls and have much higher polymer concentration than the original gel. The residual gel exhibits a higher yield stress, and is difficult to remove after fracture closure.

In this work we studied polymer gel behavior in hydraulic fracturing theoretically and experimentally. We developed a model to describe the flow behavior of residual polymer gel being displaced by gas in parallel plates. We developed analytical models for gas-liquid two-phase stratified flow of Newtonian gas and non-Newtonian residual gel to investigate gel cleanup under different conditions. The concentrated gel in the filter cake was modeled as a Herschel-Buckley fluid, a shear-thinning fluid following a power law relationship, but also having a yield stress.

The model developed shows that three flow regimes may exist in a slot, depending on the gas flow rate and the filter cake yield stress. At low gas velocities, the filter cake will be completely immobile. At higher gas velocity, the shear at the fracture wall exceeds the yield stress of the filter cake, and the gel is mobile, but with a plug flow region of constant velocity near the gas-gel interface. Finally, at high enough gas velocity, a fully developed velocity field in the gel is created.

The parameters for the gel displacement model were evaluated by experiments. We examined the filter cake formation by pumping the fracture fluid through a conductivity cell, allowing leakoff to build the filter cake, measuring the cake thickness, and flowing gas through the cell to simulate the cleanup process. The results show that the yield stress of the residual gel plays a critical role in gel cleanup.

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