Shale oil and gas developments have been growing dramatically in the U.S. since the successful development of the Barnett shale in the early 2000's. The industry was able to unlock the Barnett shale by coupling the technologies of both horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The experience stimulated the spread of this method to other fields which eventually led to the recent U.S. production boom. However, numerous underperforming wells draw attention to the importance of completion optimization to maximize hydrocarbon production from shale reservoirs. Several approaches for completion optimization have been developed; however, fracture conductivity is usually sacrificed to minimize the operational cost. The objective of this paper is to provide a comprehensive review that highlights the importance of fracture conductivity to hydrocarbon production from shale reservoirs and its potential roles in the fracture design process.

The reviewed simulation, laboratory, and field studies reveal the importance of improving fracture conductivity to maximize the reserve and well production performance in different shale formations. Reliance of well production on fracture conductivity is explained by its severe reduction at downhole conditions, in addition to, the improved effective formation permeability by the effect of the induced microfracture networks. The factors affecting the fracture conductivity at downhole conditions and its calculation complexity are explained.

The review also demonstrates the adverse effect of water on fracture conductivity in shale formations, through shale softening and proppant embedment mechanisms. The different approaches to select the fracturing fluid additives for an improved fracture conductivity are summarized in this review. To minimize the damage to the formation and the fracture conductivity, the use of water-alternative energized fluids is discussed.

This paper improves the understanding of the main factors affecting the success of shale hydraulic fracturing treatments. Hydraulic fracturing is the main key to ensure an optimum completion process which helps to maximize the production from unconventional shale oil and gas reservoirs.

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