The use of slickwater fluid systems in hydraulic fracture design has grown tremendously in recent years relative to "conventional" linear gel or cross-linked fluid systems. The primary drivers for this change in design methodology are cost, proppant pack damage minimization, fracture complexity and environmental footprint. The efficiency of proppant placement in the fracture using slickwater systems remains a subject of ongoing research none-the-less.

The diminished capability of slickwater systems to effectively suspend and transport proppant in a fracture (and the wellbore) due to its relatively low viscosity is well known, and presents the most significant drawback of utilizing slickwater systems. This inferior transport behavior requires that fracture designs consist of low proppant concentrations (0.25 – 2.0 PPA, typically) and leads to the requirement of very large volumes of fluid for placement. Furthermore, the majority of slickwater completion designs in recent times have incorporated a high percentage of small mesh size proppant (100 Mesh and 40/70) into the pump schedules to afford placement in these thin fluid systems, which have impacted proppant pack conductivity.

This paper will present a new low density proppant that has been developed to enhance the transport capabilities of slickwater fluids leading to increased reservoir contact area while enhancing proppant pack conductivity. Proppant performance in slot flow testing in comparison with conventional proppant will be presented as well as various novel deployment methodologies in which the proppant can find optimal applications by leveraging its lightweight characteristics which can lead to longer effective half lengths and greater frac height. Finally, the authors will present a case study detailing the successful deployment of the new Ultra Lightweight Ceramic (ULWC) proppant in the 2nd Bone Spring formation of the Permian basin. Lessons learned and benefits to the overall completions design will also be discussed.

Completions engineers, reservoir engineers and all technical stakeholders who are actively developing or plan to develop acreage in unconventional resource shale plays where the use of slickwater fracture fluids systems are currently in high utilization will find this paper beneficial.

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