As well construction technology enables ever-longer horizontal reach, the challenge increases for proppant placement in hydraulic fracturing operations. Effectively placing conventional proppants (sand and ceramic) in extended-reach wells requires either high pump rates or high-viscosity fluids and are subject in both cases to early proppant settling and banking. Even when heavily gelled fluids are used, proppant suspensions are subject to particle settling in the presence of vibration, and/or due to fracturing fluids breaking before the fracture closes. Furthermore, the fractures are typically vertical; and in this case the proppant has a tendency to settle in the lower portion of the fractures while the upper portions close in the absence of proppant. This can lead to impairment in the geometry of the fracture and well productivity. Using proppant with much lower densities than that of conventional proppant will provide better transport. Another benefit from these ultra-lightweight proppants (ULWP) is the elimination of polymer damage with the use of low-polymer or slick water fluid systems, enabled by their extremely slow settling rates.

Since the mid-2000s, ULWP has been used in over 3000 wells to overcome placement and settling challenges. Taking advantage of low-viscosity fluids, ULWP have been used as nearly neutral buoyant proppant; thus, minimizing settling within the created fracture and leading to a better placement. In this study, the hydraulic treatment and production data of those wells treated with ULWP and offset wells were carefully reviewed. Main production metrics are calculated to evaluate the production performance.

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