Field studies demonstrate low flowback efficiency determined by volumetric analysis of injected and recovered fracturing water. However, the reasons for inefficient water recovery, and its impact on short-term and long term production are poorly understood. Furthermore, volumetric water analysis is not sufficient for determining the source of recovered water and the true load recovery. This paper aims at understanding how flowback efficiency is related to the imbibition process, presence or absence of natural fractures, and the complexity of induced fracture network.

We interpret the flowback rate and salt concentration, measured from several multi-fractured horizontal wells recently completed in different members of the Horn River basin. We also measure and analyze water imbibition and salt diffusion rate in actual cores drilled from the same shale members. The wells are classified into those with 1) low water and high gas production, 2) high water and low gas production. This classification is explained by lab imbibition data and possible fracture patterns. Furthermore, the flowback salt concentration change is explained by the diffusion data measured in the laboratory. This systematic study provides a practical database for understanding the factors impacting the water recovery that will potentially help the operators to optimize the flowback operations, and obtain useful information about the induced fracture network.

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