The use of high viscosity friction reducers (HVFR) as alternatives to guar-based fluids to improve proppant transport and lessen formation damage has increased rapidly. While several product options are available, the criteria for selection of a product has focused on viscosity at 300 RPM (511s-1) that meets or exceeds that of linear gel fluids. However, there has been limited data available on what the target viscosity should be, how it influences the fluid's ability to transport sand, and the potential for damage to proppant conductivity. This study presents methodology used to screen HVFR's and results on product performance, which identified a need for alternative specifications to viscosity to achieve maximum performance.
The proppant transport capacity in dynamic conditions was evaluated for twenty commercially available friction reducers and HVFR's in field waters which could have up to 20,000 TDS. A slot flow apparatus was used to mimic fluid flow through a fracture under different shear and flow rate conditions. Viscosity and elasticity measurements were also obtained using an advanced rotational rheometer. For comparison, linear gel and crosslinked guar fluid were also evaluated.
While viscosity at 300 RPM (511s-1) and more recently high viscosity at lower shear rates, have been used for selection of HVFR's, these parameters alone do not indicate proppant carrying capacity. The authors did not find a correlation between higher viscosity and better proppant transport, rather they propose that too high a viscosity can negatively impact transport. The results provided insight into the effect of flow rate on proppant transport, with some HVFR's that exhibited higher viscosities at low shear, losing their transport capacity at the same low shear. Elasticity testing of those same products suggested that HVFR's have a critical elasticity range at which they will provide optimal performance. Polymer residuals were also evaluated on proppant post-test and compared to traditional linear gels and crosslinked fluids. Results suggested potential for damage if HVFR's are used without breakers. Different viscosity targets should be set when selecting a HVFR and coupled with other testing criteria such as elasticity and dynamic proppant transport.
This paper provides insight into the need for development of standardized test criteria for HVFR selection. Further testing and screening of HVFR's will help increase the understanding of key factors influencing sand transport and their effect on proppant pack conductivity.