The American Petroleum Institute Recommended Practice 19-D (2018) is the current industry standard for conductivity testing of proppants used in hydraulic fracturing. Similar to previous standards from both the API and ISO, it continues the practice of measuring a "reference" long-term conductivity after 50-hours of time at a given stress. The fracture design engineer is then left to estimate a damage factor to apply over the life of the well completion based on correlations or experience.

This study takes four standard proppants used for multi-stage horizontal well completions in North America and presents test data over 250-days of "extended-time" at 7,500 psi of effective stress. The API RP 19-D procedure was followed for all testing, but extended for 250-days duration for the four proppant types: 40/70 mesh mono-crystalline "White" sand, 40/70 mesh multi-crystalline "Brown" sand, 100 mesh "Brown" sand, and 40/70 mesh Light Weight Ceramic (LWC). The 7,500 psi stress condition was chosen to replicate initial stress conditions for a 10,000 feet deep well with a 0.75 psi/ft fracture gradient - typical of unconventional resource plays such as the Bakken formation of North Dakota or the Delaware Basin in west Texas. Results presented provide a measure of the amount of damage occurring in the proppant pack due to time at stress.

To the authors’ knowledge, there has never been any extended-time conductivity data published for multiple proppant types over the timeframe completed in this study - despite the obvious need for this understanding to optimize the stimulation design over the full life of the well.

Results for the four proppant types are presented as conductivity curves as a function of time for the 250-days of testing. Pack degradation is shown to follow a semi-log decline. Late time continued degradation for all materials is extrapolated over the life of a typical well (40 years), and compared to extended-time particle size distribution and crush data to explain the results observed.

Extended-time data such as this 250-day study have never been published on proppants such as these despite the fact that fracture conductivity has a major impact on the productive life of a well and the ultimate recovery of hydrocarbons from the formation. The data presented should be of great interest to any engineer involved with completion designs, or reservoir engineers assessing the productive life and ultimate recovery in the formation since economic optimization is primarily driven by the interplay of fracture length/area with extended-time in-situ fracture conductivity.

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