Fluid-rock interactions in unconventional reservoirs during hydraulic fracturing: a geochemical investigation from the Powder River Basin, WY

Monday, 15 December 2014
Ryan Herz-Thyhsen and John P. Kaszuba, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, United States
Widespread use of hydraulic fracturing to stimulate resource production from unconventional reservoirs necessitates the development of a fundamental understanding for this process. Our research focuses on a synthesis of three sets of data to better understand geochemical and mineralogic aspects of the process of hydraulic fracturing, including laboratory experiments, field data, and geochemical modeling. Experiments examine fluid-rock interaction using rock samples from the Niobrara and Frontier Formations, two unconventional reservoirs within the Powder River Basin of NE Wyoming. Experiments react reservoir rocks with a representative hydraulic fracturing fluid for 28 days at 115°C and 350 bars. Fresh water and common chemicals, including HCl and petroleum distillates, used in hydraulic fracturing comprise the experimental fluid. Mineral reaction to the acidic fluid (pH ~2.35) causes immediate buffering, bringing fluid pH to near-neutral conditions after ~6 hours. Al initially spikes in the first 6 hours by ~10X, but returns to lower concentrations within 12 hours. Fe, Ba, Co, Mn, Sb, and Cr follow similar trends. Contemporaneously, Sr, Mo, Li, W, V, and Rb increase dramatically and remain at elevated levels. Changes in trace element concentrations correlate with clay alteration, calcite dissolution, and feldspar dissolution observed within reacted rock samples. Fluid samples are compared to produced-water chemistry from active wells in the field, enhancing our understanding of geochemical reactions occurring at depth. Lastly, produced fluid chemistry from both field samples and experiments are tethered together using preliminary geochemical models. These models predict calcite and feldspar reaction as well as new clay formation. This research ties together a limited population of produced water data with reservoir mineralogy to enhance fundamental understanding of fluid-rock interactions in unconventional reservoirs.