In recent years a number of laboratory studies on the use of surfactants and microemulsions in hydraulic fracturing of shale formations have been reported. These studies mainly focused on such metrics as improvement in permeability regain and enhancement of fluid recovery from packed columns upon the use of surfactant-containing chemicals. Laboratory studies have also been backed by the documented observations from the field illustrating benefits of using microemulsions for the increase in gas production from shale formations. It is a commonly accepted view that these additives benefit gas production by lowering capillary pressure and altering wetability of shale formation. Although it is recognized that the interaction of surfactants and microemulsions with shale is governed by the energetics of solid/liquid, liquid/gas and solid/gas interfaces, there are practically no studies in which surface energies have been determined for different shales. The surface energy, as well as dispersive, non-dispersive, Lifshitz-van der Waals, and Lewis Acid-Lewis Base components of surface energy of several North American shales have been determined from contact angle measurements. It has been discovered that the surface energy of all shale rocks is rather low, typically in the range of 40-50 mJ/m2 a contribution from non-dispersion ("polar") component of about 8-11 dyn/cm. Consequently, shales are capable of interacting with liquids predominantly via dispersion and Lifshitz-van der Waals molecular interactions, which should substantially influence the orientation of surfactant molecules and microemulsion moieties at the shale surface. Furthermore, there was no significant variation in surface energy of shales from different basins, which suggests that individuality of shale surface chemistry should play only a secondary role in the development of shale-specific chemical treatments, and factors other than surface chemistry should be considered first.

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