The productivity and economics of horizontal wells are governed by the ability of the transverse fractures to communicate efficiently with the wellbore, which is strongly controlled by the conductivity of the proppant bed and the effectiveness of the fluid additives. These impact the relative permeability, the capillary pressure and the effective conductivity in the proppant bed. When time at temperature, stress cycling, embedment, multi-phase flow and non-Darcy effects are considered, the effective conductivity can be reduced 100-fold. Another investigated parameter is the impact of the wellbore location relative to the propagated fracture. If the wellbore is high in the fracture, gravity segregation will cause liquid removal from the lower portion of the fracture to be very difficult. In low conductivity proppant beds, capillary pressure will tend to retain high water saturations, thus lower conductivity even for the portions of the fracture above the wellbore.
Laboratory experiments have addressed these issues for proppants with a range of permeabilities from 10 to 100 Darcies; 100 mesh to 20/40 mesh and ceramics. The relative permeability to gas can be as low as 0.01, with as much as a 70-fold improvement when suitable proppants and additives are employed. Evaluation of the production performance of 240 wells, 98 with effective additives and 142 without, and covering a similar range of proppant types and sizes, shows a similar benefit to the wells’ normalized 30 day recovery and gross value. These results clearly demonstrate that economic expediency can be detrimental to a well’s ultimate value and hydrocarbon recovery.