Slickwater fracturing has been phenomenally successful in unconventional shale formations due to their unique geomechanical properties. Nevertheless, these treatments consume large volumes of water. On average, hydraulic fracturing treatments use up to 13,000,000 gallons of water in unconventional wells. In an effort to reduce the use of freshwater, research has focused on developing friction reducers (FR) that can be used in high salinity brines such as seawater and produced water. However, commonly used friction reducers precipitate in high salinity brine, lose their friction reduction properties, and cause severe formation damage to the proppant pack. Consequently, this work proposes the use of common surfactants to aid the FR system and achieve salt tolerance at water salinity up to 230,000 ppm. This paper will (a) evaluate five surfactants for use in high salinity FR systems, (b) evaluate the rheological properties of these systems, and (c) evaluate the damage generated from using these systems.

Four types of tests were conducted to analyze the performance of the new FR at high salinity brine. These are (a) rheology, (b) static proppant settling, (c) breakability, and (d) coreflood tests. Surfactants with ethylene oxide chain lengths ranging from 6 to 12 were incorporated in the tests. Rheology tests were done at temperatures up to 150°F to evaluate the FR at shear rates between 40-1000 s-1. Proppant settling tests were performed to investigate the proppant carrying capacity of the new FR system. Breakability and coreflood tests were conducted to study the potential damage caused by the proposed systems.

Rheology tests showed that using surfactants with high ethylene oxide chain length (>8) improved the performance of the FR at water salinity up to 230,000 ppm. Anionic surfactants performed better than cationic surfactants in improving FR performance. The ammonium persulfate was used as a breaker and showed effectiveness with the proposed formula. Finally, the retained permeability after 12 hours of injecting the FR was over 95%. This shows that after using this system, the productivity of the formation is minimally affected by the new FR system.

This research provides the first guide on studying the impact of using different ethylene oxide chain lengths of surfactants in developing new FR systems that can perform well in a high salinity environment. Given the economic and environmental benefits of reusing produced water, this new system can save costs that were previously spent on water treatments.

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