Production performance evaluation of energized fracturing fluids in unconventional formations



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Pursuit of unconventional gas and oil has prompted the development and adoption of innovative fracturing solutions. Energized fracturing is one promising technology that can be an effective alternative to mainstream slickwater or hybrid fracturing fluids in many applications. Yet, field use of energized fluids accounted for only 2-3% of 2011-2012 reported fracturing treatments in the U.S. compared to a markedly higher share of 42-46% in Canada. Recently, the superior performance and economics of foams were reported in the Montney Gas Formation in western Canada. In this thesis, we utilized field data and a compositional, 3D fracturing simulator to showcase the production performance of energized fluids in several areas of the Cardium and Bakken Light Oil Formations within the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin. Average well data in the Cardium revealed better production results for foam compared to nitrified slickwater in the West Willesden Green and Buck Lake-Wilson Creek fields. Foams had a 110% higher initial peak production rate and 51% higher long term cumulative production in the West Willesden Green field with a similar initial production profile and a 16.2% higher long-term production in the Buck Lake-Wilson Creek fields. In contrast, the initial peak production rate of nitrified slickwater was 28% higher with 95% incremental oil production relative to foam in the West Pembina field. This shows that the effectiveness of foam fracturing fluids can vary significantly perhaps because of better fracture containment and lower rock water sensitivity in some fields. Across all the areas studied, foam completions on average were found to have 5-20% lower costs and lower water and proppant requirements by 72-87% and 7-38%, respectively. Fracture modeling, on the other hand, showed 53% higher well productivity increase using nitrified slickwater largely because of better contained fractures in the thin Cardium reservoir interval. Nitrified slickwater had twice the propped fracture length and conductivity of foam. With markedly improved fracture containment in depleted Cardium wells, foam is likely to outperform nitrified slickwater as fracturing fluid recovery is enhanced and permeability/relative permeability damage is reduced in water sensitive areas. In the Bakken Formation, field data showed an average of 15.8% higher long term cumulative production for foam compared to crosslinked gel despite the higher initial rate of crosslinked gel. Foam fractures were predicted to have 44% higher well productivity increase than crosslinked gel fractures based on simulations conducted. Foam had 50% longer propped fracture, 73% higher fracture conductivity, and twice the relative permeability to oil in the invaded zone compared to crosslinked gel. In our simulation, some factors were not accounted for such as formation heterogeneity, the effect of solution gas drive and associated water production, and the interaction between induced and natural fractures. Also, our modeling work was based on generic and synthesized data. For more accurate comparisons, we recommend performing simulation runs with detailed well-specific data.