Proppant effects on maintaining fracture permeability in shale.

Friday, 19 December 2014: 8:55 AM
Mathew D Ingraham, Stephen J Bauer, Daniel Bolintineanu, Rekha R Rao, Jeremy B Lechman and Joseph A Romero, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM, United States
A series of tests have been performed on manually fractured and propped shale. The shale used in this study contained 5-10% porosity, and 10-40% clay. Samples were fractured subparallel to bedding. Quartz sand (0.60-0.85 mm) was used as a proppant; proppant was manually placed on a fracture surface, resulting in a monolayer with random distribution. The specimens were repeatedly subjected to reservoir conditions, 20.7 MPa confining, 6.9 MPa differential stress, and temperature of 75 C. System permeability was measured during testing by flowing DI water through the specimen, flow rates were set to 0.002 ml/min, with the downstream vented to atmosphere. Upstream pressure varied to maintain the flow rate, and was approximately 1.4 MPa in the most recent (lowest permeability) test. Between test periods, specimens were removed from the test system and scanned with x-ray μCT. There is significant decrease in flow with subsequent testing due fracture closure. This is attributed to observations of clay swelling, proppant embedment, proppant fracture and shale wall sloughing. These lead to a decrease in effective fracture aperture. Flow induced particle transport clogs flow paths and impedes flow. Isolated grains tend to crush whereas continuous grains in proppant patches tend fracture with little displacement and tend towards embedment. Corresponding numerical simulations are underway to capture the change in crack flow due to these mechanisms. Images from the CT scans of the proppant filled crack are segmented and meshed. Then flow simulations are performed via the finite element method. Preliminary results are discussed.
This work is a precursor to laboratory-scale shale fracture and proppant testing; cores will be hydraulically fractured and propped with appropriate proppant and fluid rheology. Proppant life and permeability reduction will be monitored and specimens will be scanned with μCT. Tests will be used to inform proppant flow models which seek to model proppant density and distribution within a fracture. Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory managed and operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration under contract DE-AC04-94AL85000.