The Barnett shale has an extensive history of various hydraulic fracture methodologies aimed at creating both reservoir connection via complex fracture networks and a conductive proppant pack for fluid flow to the wellbore. Multiple studies indicate that effective stimulation of shale plays like the Barnett shale require extensive conductive complex fracture development coupled with sufficient proppant-pack retained permeability to maximize well productivity. Studies have also shown that wells very often underperform expectations after the application of low proppant concentrations with slickwater fluids and/or hybrid designs with linear or crosslinked fluids. Furthermore, recent increased restrictions on fracturing operations in urban areas have created a need to reduce the operational footprint of the treatments without compromising production results. The need exists for novel stimulation methods capable of addressing these challenges.

The channel hydraulic fracturing technique creates open pathways within the proppant pack by combining specific surface equipment controls and pumping protocols with fluid and fiber technologies. The engineered network of channels provides highly conductive paths for the flow of fluids from the reservoir to the wellbore.

We conducted a study including more than 50 treatments performed in the Barnett shale with this technique. These treatments reduced proppant and water used per well up to 40% and 36%, respectively, compared to treatments with conventional methods in offset wells. The study includes the use of advanced modeling software, coupled with microseismic evaluation and comparison of conventional job designs with the channel-fracturing approach, to evaluate the impact on fracture geometry.

The results of the study indicate that the channel fracturing technique increased operational efficiency at equivalent well production in the study area of the Barnett shale. Microseismic comparisons show similar fracture heights and transverse fracture lengths. Coupling of conventional higher rate slickwater treatments with the channel fracturing technique yields equivalent well production while achieving significant reductions in fluid and proppant used in the job designs. The project demonstrated that such reductions have led to more than 38 million gallons of water and over 3,000 proppant and water-hauling trips saved for every 50 stages using this technology for the stimulation of wells in the Barnett shale.

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