Hydraulic fracturing has been active in Argentina since the 1960s. The first jobs were performed using oil-based fluids. Throughout the years, new water-based fluids were introduced to replace alcohol-based fluids and foams based on reservoir requirements, economics, and safety and environmental issues. Currently, more than 95% of hydraulic fractures performed in the country are made using aqueous-based fluids.

Recently, exploration and development of resource shale plays, such as the Vaca Muerta, have begun. To achieve commercial production, this type of reservoir must be stimulated by hydraulic fracturing using large volumes of water. From 2009 to present, various exploration techniques have been performed in different shales, such as Los Molles, Vaca Muerta, Agrio (Neuquén Basin), Cacheuta (Cuyo Basin), and the D-129 (Golfo San Jorge Basin).

This paper discusses aspects of water logistics necessary during the well completion phase, fracture treatment designs applied in Vaca Muerta, and laboratory studies performed on flowback and produced waters to help evaluate the potential for water reuse.

The focus is on three different phases of water cycles for these projects.

  • Water sources and stimulation: information for vertical and horizontal wells based on physical-chemical characteristics of various freshwater for stimulation, volume of water used, type of fracture treatment, and fracture fluid and additives used.

  • Logistics: evolution of different water storage and transport options used for shale projects on single or multiple well pads.

  • Reuse of flowback and produced water: laboratory tests on different flowback and produced water and/or blends (freshwater-flowback-water), treated and untreated including:

    • Physico-chemical characteristic of water (flowback and produced) from different wells.

    • Formation sensitivity tests with different water sources and usage possibilities.

    • Fracture fluids, conventional borate fluids, and a new low-residue CMHPG-metal formulated fluid using no traditional water treated and untreated with high total dissolved solids (TDS).

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