A new generation alumina ceramic proppant has been developed for higher drag and thus improved settling performance compared to conventional sand or ceramic proppant. Slickwater hydraulic fracture treatments in unconventional gas and tight oil developments are less expensive and less likely to leave residue than cross-linked gel formulations, but due to the lower viscosity, proppant transported with slickwater tends to settle out, likely contributing to screenout of proppant and shorter fracture half length with limited propped height. This novel proppant technology is designed to address the challenges of better proppant placement and increased propped height and half length in slickwater fracturing.
This paper describes prototype development of the novel proppant technology, laboratory testing, and hydraulic fracturing modeling. The new proppant is shaped such that it tumbles and flutters during sedimentation in water and this movement greatly reduces settling rate. Finite element structural analysis was conducted to optimize the geometry to achieve higher crush strength while maintaining the conductivity. Laboratory sedimentation tests show a significant increase in settling time of new generation proppant compared to 30-50 sand poppant which had similar size and weight. Hydraulic fracturing modeling shows potential for a significant increase in proppant coverage area.
With structurally designed and optimized shapes, this high drag proppant has better transport/placement due to lower settling rates, and enhanced proppant flowback control. Finally, a practical manufacturing process has been identified to enable cost-effective manufacturing of this material.