Experimental and Numerical Study on Spontaneous Imbibition of Fracturing Fluids in the Horn River Shale Gas Formation

Zhou, Zhou (China University of Petroleum Beijing) | Hoffman, Todd (Montana Tech) | Bearinger, Doug (Nexen Energy ULC) | Li, Xiaopeng (Colorado School of Mines) | Abass, Hazim (Colorado School of Mines)



After hydraulic fracturing, only 10 to 50% of the fracturing fluids is typically recovered. This paper investigates how the remaining fracturing fluids are imbibed by shale as a function of time, and it investigates the influence of various parameters on the imbibition process that include lithology, reservoir characteristics, and fluid properties. In addition, on the basis of experimental results, a numerical model has been developed to estimate the volume and rate of spontaneous imbibition over the entire fracture face. The rock samples are from the Horn River formation onshore Canada. The fracturing fluids used in the experiments included 2% KCl, 0.07% friction reducer, and 2% KCl substitute. In the experimental control group, distilled water was used. Through spontaneous- imbibition experiments, the relationship between imbibed fluid volume and time indicated that clay content was the most important factor that affected the total imbibed amount. Shale matrix with high clay content could imbibe more fracturing fluids than its measured porous space because of the clay’s strong ability to expand and hold water. According to contact-angle-test results, the strongly water-wet shale samples had a faster imbibed rate. Total organic carbon (TOC) and porosity had no influence on imbibed volume and rate. These experimental findings can contribute to an improved fracturing-fluid design for different shale-formation conditions to reduce fluid loss. The experiment showed that 2% KCl and 2% KCl substitute fracturing fluids were imbibed from 10 to 40% less than 0.07% friction reducer in the shale formation with high clay content, whereas in the shale formation with low clay content, the opposite occurred. In the low-clay-content shale, 0.07%-friction reducer test fluid was imbibed from 10 to 30% less than 2% KCl fluid, but had an imbibed amount similar to that of 2% KCl substitute fluid. The numerical-model result was matched with the experimental result to estimate a relative permeability in the model that could represent the rock properties. This model could be used to estimate the total imbibed volume along fracture faces through spontaneous imbibition.