Effectively stimulating multiple pay zones using separate fracturing treatments can be costly and time consuming. By contrast, multistage fracturing is a widely used technique that offers the advantage of stimulating significant portions of the reservoir by fracturing through multiple perforations simultaneously. While the multistage fracturing method known as "plug and perf" has been proven to be an effective method for developing unconventional resources, it presents the challenge of achieving even proppant distribution to all perforation clusters during each stimulation stage.

It is commonly assumed that the plug and perforate multistage fracturing technique provides the planned fluid and proppant distribution among the fractures that are simultaneously taking fluid during pumping a single stage. However, parameters, such as the reservoir properties, fluid rheology, and proppant characteristics have demonstrated a strong influence on the actual proppant and fluid distribution into the various perforations.

Field data indicates, in many cases, that some of the clusters do not contribute to production. This indication supports the hypothesis that actual proppant and fluid distribution along the stimulated clusters might be different from the assumed uniform distribution. Some believe that the amount of proppant appears to be heavily weighted toward the end of the perforated interval, which results in uneven proppant distribution. Empirical data as well as laboratory tests have yet to be challenged against the few studies that exist.

This paper presents a first- of-its-kind large-scale investigation that was conducted to study proppant distribution among separated perforations along a horizontal interval. These experiments closely simulate any single stage during the plug-and-perforate fracturing process. The effect of various fluid specific gravities, fluid viscosities, proppant specific gravities, proppant sizes, and slurry flow rates were investigated while keeping outside-casing parameters constant. The various aspects of proppant and fluid flow through a perforated interval are discussed. The experimental efforts discussed in this paper create a better understanding of fluid and proppant behavior in this widely used fracturing process to help achieve maximum efficiency.

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