Throughout multiple shale plays, high viscosity friction reducers (HVFRs) have successfully placed more proppant mass with lower treating fluid volume; thus, the industry is accelerating adoption of these treating fluids. Previous published studies have included treatments in Bakken shale and Permian Basin formations.

The characteristics of the Marcellus shale make it particularly beneficial to minimize water and gel injection into the formation. At the same time, operational constraints related to smaller footprint and pad sizes in the Marcellus region make it beneficial to reduce gel hydration equipment on location. In spite of these potential benefits, application of high viscosity friction reducers has only recently begun in the Marcellus region.

One factor delaying the introduction of HVFRs into the Northeast has been the challenging waters and brines often used in treatments. This study documents the successful introduction of a brine tolerant, high viscosity friction reducer with multiple operators in the Marcellus region.

Marcellus operators compared several different friction reducer chemistries through field trials on multiple pads. Based on measurements of surface treating pressure and proppant placement, an optimum fluid system was selected that is effective in a range of water qualities and allow increased pump rate. The friction reducer was also compared to conventional gel technology based on the same method. The brine tolerant friction reducer was found to be an effective replacement for linear gel fluids and allowed reduction of equipment on location.

A brine tolerant, high viscosity friction reducer enabled treatments to be placed with increased sand loadings, higher pump rates, and decreased surface treating pressures. The fluid system was able to work with a variety of water conditions, including brines having more than 30,000 ppm chlorides. In one case the new fluid system allowed operations to entirely move away from gel chemistry and surface hydration equipment.

The study presents measured results during the frac on one of the first applications of a high viscosity friction reducer in Marcellus shale treatment.

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