Low productivity indices are observed in many moderate-to low-permeability coal bed methane (CBM) and shale gas (SG) reservoirs due to low aperture and poor connectivity of natural cleats.

A method is proposed for injection of graded proppant particles into a cleat system below the fracturing pressure to keep coal cleats and shale fractures open during water-gas production. Graded proppant injection in CBM and SG reservoirs can: stimulate a stress sensitive cleat system below the fracturing pressure; enhance fracturing treatment by invading cleats, lowering fluid leak-off, and maintaining aperture during production; and provide a periodic or remedial treatment to counter effective stress on the cleats improving production by maintaining cleat aperture.

Laboratory tests on bituminous coal core flooding with water under increasing pore pressure with graded proppant injection at the maximum pore pressure (minimum effective stress) have been carried out at different ionic strengths and high pH of the injected water. Proppant particles penetrate deeper into coal matrix at low ionic strength of injected water corresponding to electrostatic particle-particle and particle-coal repulsion. No particle agglomeration and formation of particle-formed cake at the entrance of coal cleats are observed at these conditions. Coal permeability increases by about 2.2 times as the result of a single-sized small particle injection. Followed injection of larger particles leads to a greater enhancement of coal core permeability. An overall increase of coal core permeability after graded proppant injection is about 2.7 times.

The proposed method can significantly increase very low productivity index in stress sensitive coals and shales without hydraulic fracturing. It can be also used as a non-damaging leak-off additive during hydraulic fracturing stimulation treatments and to aid long-term conductivity.

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