High-viscosity friction reducers (HVFRs) have been gaining popularity and increase in use as hydraulic fracturing fluids because HVFRs exhibit numerous advantages such as their ability to carry particles, their promotion of higher fracture conductivity, and their potentially lower cost due to fewer chemicals and equipment on location. However, concerns remain about using HVFRs with produced water containing a high level of TDS (Total Dissolved Solids). This study investigates the influence of the use of produced water on the rheological behavior of HVFRs compared to a traditional linear guar gel. This work also aims to correlate proppant settling velocity behavior with rheological properties of HVFRs vs. linear gel on hydraulic fracturing operations. Comprehensive rheological tests of different HVFRs compared with linear gel were performed including, shear-viscosity and dynamic oscillatory-shear measurements using an advanced rheometer.

The results of these rheological measurements reveal that these polyacrylamide-based HVFR systems achieve a high viscosity profile in fresh water with associated high proppant-carrying capacity. On the other hand, increasing water salinity lowers HVFR’s viscosity, increases proppant settling velocity, and lessens the fluid’s proppant-carrying efficiency. Although in fresh water linear gel showed similar viscosity measurements with HVFR-A, the HVFR-A recorded a lower proppant settling rate because HVFR-A has a higher relaxation time (15.3 s) than the relaxation time of linear gel (1.73 s).

As expected, in high-TDS produced water the relaxation time and elastic behavior decreased for all the fracturing fluids tested. HVFR-B recorded the smallest reduction in relaxation time (about 14%) when tested in produced water vs. fresh water, and the resulting settling velocity increased by 29% from 3.4 cm/s to 4.85 cm/s. For linear gel, its reduction in relaxation time exceeded of 70% when changing water salinity from fresh water to high-TDS brine water. This high reduction of relaxation time leads to over 40% increase in proppant settling velocity from 5.3 cm/s to 8.7 cm/s in fresh water and produced water, respectively. This study confirms that HVFR’s elasticity (vs. it viscosity) properties enable successful proppant transport for a wide range of shear rates while viscosity (vs. elasticity) properties controls proppant settling velocity in linear guar-based fluids. This paper will provide greater understanding of the importance of complete viscoelastic characterization of the HVFRs. The findings provide an in-depth understanding of the behavior of HVFRs under high-TDS brine, which could be used as guidance for developing fracturing fluids and for fracture engineers to design and select better friction reducers.

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