A More Sustainable Approach: Nanofiltered Seawater-Based High-Temperature Fracturing Fluids

Li, Leiming (Aramco Services Company) | Chang, Fakuen F. (Saudi Aramco) | Saini, Rajesh K. (Aramco Services Company)



In recent decades, the widespread implementation of horizontal drilling and multistage hydraulic fracturing in unconventional plays has increased the use of fresh water in oilfield operations. The formulation of fracturing fluids with non-fresh water sources such as seawater or produced water are attracting more attention due to the long term sustainability of non-fresh water use.

Fracturing fluids using seawater are available in the industry. But the compatibility between the composition of local seawater and reservoir brine can add complication in the formation damage consideration. For example, if a seawater rich in sulfate comes in contact with formation brine rich in calcium or barium, severe scale can be expected if the proper caution is not taken. Treated seawater with nano-filtration to removal sulfate is a good practice to eliminate this problem. This paper describes a fracturing fluid formulated by using nanofiltered seawater for high temperature applications at 300 to 325°F. The crosslinked fracturing fluid formulation was optimized in the lab to accommodate the nanofiltered seawater, resulting in satisfactory fluid performance thereby enabling the fracturing operations to conserve fresh water.

A high-temperature crosslinked fracturing fluid system was prepared with the nanofiltered local seawater. The fluid system showed robust stability at high temperatures. For example, the fluid viscosity stayed above 400 cP (at 100 sec−1 shear rate) for 2 hr at 300°F, with 45 ppt of the polymer loading. At 325°F, the fluid maintained viscosity above 300 cP for 2 hr with 60 ppt of the polymer loading. The nanofiltered seawater-based fluids was found to be compatible with a number of commonly used fluid additives including biocide, surfactant, and clay stabilizer. The fluid system also showed low formation damage and scaling tendencies. In the coreflow tests at 300°F, a regained permeability of greater than 95% was obtained. In the scaling tests without the presence of scale inhibitor at 300°F, traceable (<0.01 wt %) amount of scale was observed in the mixture of the nanofiltered seawater and high total dissolved solids (TDS) formation brine. Overall, it was found using the nanofiltered seawater can lead to better fluid stability at elevated temperatures, better fluid cleanup, and reduced downhole scaling tendency.

By careful selection of the fluid components, the nanofiltered seawater-based fluid relieve the burden of needing fresh water for hydraulic fracturing treatment, allowing for a more sustainable approach. This paper discusses the technical functions of the key fluid additives used in the fracturing fluid preparation.