The Effect of Proppant Size and Concentration on Hydraulic Fracture Conductivity in Shale Reservoirs



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Hydraulic fracture conductivity in ultra-low permeability shale reservoirs is directly related to well productivity. The main goal of hydraulic fracturing in shale formations is to create a network of conductive pathways in the rock which increase the surface area of the formation that is connected to the wellbore. These highly conductive fractures significantly increase the production rates of petroleum fluids. During the process of hydraulic fracturing proppant is pumped and distributed in the fractures to keep them open after closure. Economic considerations have driven the industry to find ways to determine the optimal type, size and concentration of proppant that would enhance fracture conductivity and improve well performance. Therefore, direct laboratory conductivity measurements using real shale samples under realistic experimental conditions are needed for reliable hydraulic fracturing design optimization.

A series of laboratory experiments was conducted to measure the conductivity of propped and unpropped fractures of Barnett shale using a modified API conductivity cell at room temperature for both natural fractures and induced fractures. The induced fractures were artificially created along the bedding plane to account for the effect of fracture face roughness on conductivity. The cementing material present on the surface of the natural fractures was preserved only for the initial unpropped conductivity tests. Natural proppants of difference sizes were manually placed and evenly distributed along the fracture face. The effect of proppant monolayer was also studied.