Ultra light weight proppants in shale gas fracturing
The goal of the present work is to improve shale reservoir stimulation treatment by using ultra light weight proppants in fracturing fluids. Slickwater has become the most popular fracturing fluid for fracturing shales in recent times because it creates long and skinny fractures and it is relatively cheap. The problem with slickwater is the high rate of settling of common proppants, e.g. sand, which results in propped fractures which are much smaller than the original fractures. Use of gels can help in proppant transport but introduce large formation damage by blocking pores in nano-darcy shales. Gel trapping in the proppant pack causes reduction in permeability of the proppant pack. The light weight proppants which can easily be transported by slickwater and at the same time be able to provide enough fracture conductivity may solve this problem. Three ultra light weight proppants (ULW1, ULW2, and ULW3) have been studied. The mechanical properties of the proppant packs as well as single proppants have been measured. Conductivity of proppant packs has been determined as a function of proppant concentration and confining stress at an average Barnett shale temperature of 95oC. The crush strengths of all the three proppant packs are higher than typical stresses encountered (e.g., Barnett). ULW1 and ULW2 are highly deformable and do not produce many fines. ULW3 has a higher Young’s modulus and produces fines. Conventionally, the proppant conductivity decreases with decreasing proppant concentration and increasing confining stress. But in cases of ULWs, for a partial monolayer, conductivity can be as large as that of a thick proppant pack. The settling velocity is the lowest for ULW1, intermediate for ULW2 and the highest for ULW3. This work contributes new mechanical, conductivity, and settling data on three ultra light weight proppants. Application of light weight proppants in stimulation treatments in shale reservoirs can lead to large propped fractures, which can improve the productivity of fractured shale reservoirs.