Proppant diagenesis has been introduced recently as a damaging mechanism to the fracture conductivity in shale formations. The mechanism was used to explain the low values of the field-measured fracture conductivity as well as the long-term decline of the lab-measured API conductivity data. Previous studies revealed the presence of a diagenetic overgrowth on the proppant surface and around the embedment crater after being exposed to high-temperature and/or high-stress conditions. The objective of this paper is to experimentally investigate the diagenesis of bauxite proppant in calcite rich Eagle Ford shale fractures.

The interaction between the proppant and the formation was studied by aging its mixture in a deionized water for prolonged period of time at elevated temperature of 325°F to accelerate the involved reactions. Aluminum-based bauxite proppant of 20/40 mesh-size was mixed with a crushed Eagle Ford shale sample of 50/100 mesh-size. The mixture was aged at 325°F and 300 psia for three weeks. The surfaces of the proppant and the formation were examined for mineral overgrowth and dissolution using scanning electron microscope (SEM) with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS). The supernatant fluid was analyzed for cations’ concentrations using inductively coupled plasma (ICP) and the sulfate ion concentration was measured using a spectrophotometer. The proppant and Eagle Ford formation were then aged separately at the same conditions to explain the sources of the leached ions and the observed overgrowth materials.

The results show the diagenetic activity that could result from the use of bauxite proppant in Eagle Ford shale fracturing. The ICP results indicated the potential dissolution of the proppant at high temperature. The observed overgrowth materials were identified as calcium sulfate, calcium zeolite, and iron-calcium zeolite. The calcium sulfate was found to be explicitly sourced from the Eagle Ford dissolution-precipitation mechanism. The SEM/EDS results indicated the presence of calcium zeolite after aging both cells: the proppant/formation mixture and the formation alone. The iron-calcium zeolite was found on the proppant surface as a result of the fluid/proppant/shale interactions.

The study contributes to the understanding of the damaging mechanisms to the fracture conductivity in the Eagle Ford shale formation. Results impact the choice of proppant and fluid for fracturing optimization and long-term production sustainability in the Eagle Ford shale reservoirs.

You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.