Multi-stage plug-n-perf fracturing of horizontal wells has proven to be an effective method to develop unconventional reservoirs. Various studies have shown uneven fluid and proppant distributions across all perforation clusters. It is commonly believed that both fracturing fluid and proppant contribute to unconventional well performance. Achieving uniform fluid and proppant placement is an important step toward optimal stimulation. This paper discusses how to achieve such uniform placement in each stage via a CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) modeling approach.

CFD models in several lab scales were built and calibrated using experimental data of proppant transport through horizontal pipes in several laboratory configurations. A field-scale model was then built and validated using perforation erosion data from downhole camera observations and the same model parameters calibrated in the lab-scale model. With the field-scale model validated, CFD simulations were performed to evaluate the impact of key parameters on fluid and proppant placement in individual perforations and clusters. Some key parameters investigated in this study included perforation parameters (size, orientation, number), cluster spacing, cluster count per stage, fluid properties, proppant properties, pumping rates, casing sizes, and stress shadow effects, etc.

Both lab and CFD results show that bottom-side perforations receive significantly more proppant than top-side perforations due to gravitational effects. Lab and CFD results also show that proppant distribution is increasingly toe-biased at higher rates. Proppant concentration along the wellbore from heel to toe generally varies significantly. Gravity, momentum, viscous drag, and turbulent dispersion are key factors affecting proppant transport in horizontal wellbores.

This study demonstrates that near-uniform fluid and proppant placement across all clusters in each stage is achievable by optimizing perforation, cluster, and other treatment design factors. Validated CFD modeling plays an important role in this design optimization process.

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