Post-treatment production analyses for hydraulic fracturing treatments with conventional crosslinked gel often indicate that the treatments do not achieve the designed stimulation effectiveness, which could be attributed to non-optimal proppant placement and/or significantly damaged fracture conductivity. Although conventional crosslinked fluids are observed to provide good proppant suspension in laboratory environments, they might not provide the desired proppant transport under downhole conditions. Crosslinked fluids are known to be difficult to clean up, and thus are notorious for imparting gel damage to proppant pack and formation. Surfactant gels have been developed to mitigate some of the issues.

Viscosity measurements are used as the main tool to judge and optimize the performance of both polymer and surfactant based fracture fluids, especially their ability to transport proppant. While efficient proppant transport is essential for successful hydraulic fracturing, recent laboratory work has shown that viscosity alone may not accurately assess proppant transport. The objective of the paper is to investigate and determine the minimum rheological properties required for efficient proppant transport. Thus, combinations of rotational and oscillatory measurements were conducted to better predict the proppant transport characteristics. Also, proppant settling tests were conducted at static and dynamic conditions. A strong correlation was established between fluid's elasticity and its ability to suspend the proppant with a required minimum elastic modulus (G') value to be greater than viscous modulus (G”).

Experimental results show that for two fluids that both have a close viscosity value (similar power law parameters); one fluid with G'>G” while the other one G'< G”, the fluid that has G'>G” behaves as semi-solid material where it deforms instead of flowing when shear stress is applied, while the fluid that has G”>G', flows when shear stress is applied and time to flow depends on viscosity. A proppant particle in a fluid undergoes shear stress due to its density. Therefore, for the fluid G”>G', proppant settles as the fluid moves around it and the speed of settling depends on fluid viscosity, whereas for the elastic fluid (G'>G”), fluid elasticity does not allow the proppant to settle. This observation was confirmed for both polymer and surfactant based fracturing fluids. Additives can be divided into categories that may enhance or reduce fluid elasticity based on their effect on the internal structure of the fluids. For example, breakers tend to significantly reduce the fluid elasticity, even when viscosity reduction is minimized. Data obtained from this study can be used as a guideline to optimize and select the fluid that has ability to carry proppant for field treatment design.

You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.