The development of a high-temperature seawater-based fracturing fluid has received much attention because it offers a solution to fresh water shortages; however, the rheological properties suffer significantly as a result of interactions between dissolved ions with fluid components. Various strategies have been investigated to address this challenge, including seawater treatments that ultimately remove the highly soluble and insoluble ionic moieties to yield a fracturing fluid with reliable rheological characteristics.

Most polymer-based fracturing fluids have limited salt tolerance. Interactions between the polymer and divalent cations in seawater inhibit proper polymer hydration, thus preventing generation of an elastic polymer network and potentially affecting the crosslinking mechanism. In this study, concentrations of critical ions in seawater were reduced using a reliable seawater treatment. This treatment allowed a reliable fluid at higher temperatures and also considerably reduced the scaling tendency of the fluid. The fluid presented herein, designed in the treated seawater, yields a stable elastic polymer network when used in conjunction with stabilizing additives and is capable of effectively delivering proppant down hole.

This newly developed formulation uses a combination of instant and delayed crosslinkers and additional stabilizing additives required at optimum concentrations to yield a stable fluid system in the treated seawater. At high temperatures, the addition of typical ion sequestration agents failed to eliminate the negative interaction between dissolved ions and fluid stability, thus requiring water pre-treatment. The fluid system exhibits reliable rheological properties and yields a clean broken fluid for excellent proppant pack cleanup in high total dissolved solids (TDS) waters up to 350°F. Typical guar-based fracturing fluids require a high pH (greater than 10) to maintain rheological stability at high temperatures. The fracturing fluid presented herein was developed at pH 9 in treated seawater and maintained its elasticity and viscosity over a long period of time at temperatures up to 350°F. An added benefit of controlling the pH and not surpassing pH 9.5 was also revealed—scale control.

This study discusses the development of a new seawater-based fracturing fluid for use in high-temperature wells. This can result in a paradigm shift in source water use for hydraulic fracturing.

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