Formation damage studies using artifically fractured, low-permeability sandstone cores indicate that viscosified fracturing fluids can severely restrict gas flow through these types of narrow fractures. These studies were performed in support of the Department of Energy's Multiwell Experiment (MWX). The MWX program was a coordinated research effort to study methods to evaluate and enhance gas production from low-permeability lenticular reservoirs of the Western United States.
Extensive geological and production evaluations at the MWX site indicate that the presence of a natural fracture system is largely responsible for unstimulated gas production. The laboratory formation damage studies were designed to examine changes in cracked core permeability to gas caused by fracturing fluid residues introduced into such narrow fractures during fluid leakoff.
Polysaccharide polymers caused significant reduction (up to 95%) to gas flow through cracked cores. Polymer fracturing fluid gels used in this study included hydroxypropyl guar, hydroxyethyl cellulose, and xanthan gum. In contrast, polyacrylamide gels caused little or no reduction in gas flow through cracked cores after liquid cleanup. Other components of fracturing fluids (surfactants, breakers, etc.) caused less damage to gas flows.
The results of fluid leakoff tests indicated that polysaccharide polymers caused a filter cake buildup at or near the crack entrance while polyacrylamide polymers did not cause a filtercake buildup within the time period of the tests. For xanthan gum gels filtercake buildup was reduced for gels containing polymer breakers. For gels containing polymer breakers, 100 mesh sand was an effective fluid-loss control agent for narrow fractures.
Other factors affecting gas flow through cracked cores were investigated, including the effects of net confining stress and non-Darcy flow parameters.
Results are related to some of the problems observed during the stimulation program conducted for the MWX.