Numerical Study on Proppant Transport and Placement in Complex Fractures System of Shale Formation Using Eulerian Multiphase Model Approach

Yang, Ruoyu (Southwest Petroleum University) | Guo, Jianchun (Southwest Petroleum University) | Zhang, Tao (Southwest Petroleum University) | Zhang, Xudong (Southwest Petroleum University) | Ma, Jian (Sinopec) | Li, Yang (Southwest Petroleum University)



Slick-water fracturing treatment is one of the most effective method to develop shale reservoir, which creates complex fracture system by connecting the pre-existing natural fractures. However, the proppant transport and placement behavior is quite different from that in conventional bi-wing fractures due to the low viscosity fluid system and intersections between fractures. The goal of this work is to simulate and understand the characteristic of proppant transport behavior in Complex Fractures network.

A Eulerian multiphase model is introduced to simulate the transport and settling behavior in the hydraulic fracture network, which takes turbulence effects and friction stress between the proppant particles into consideration and fully couple the fluid phase with particle phase. Simulation work was conducted to investigate the control mechanism and influencing factors for proppant transportation from main fracture into secondary and tertiary fractures.

The simulation results indicate that a small proppant dune quickly forms in the main fractures first, and almost no proppant enters the lower grade fracture until the proppant dune in the intersection reaches a specific height. With continuous injection of slurry fluid, majority of the proppant enters in the lower grade fracture which is controlled by gravity rolling from the dune in main fractures and fluid drag force, and the proppant settles quickly and gradually reach their own equilibrium height. Parametric study shows that smaller proppant density and particle size can also help proppant transport into secondary fractures and form a higher equilibrium height dune, resulting in larger effective propped area. Moreover, when the lower grade fracture is closer to the inlet entrance, the proppant is more likely to transport in, and the height of sand dunes formed in the fractures is higher.

The proppant transport process in complex fracture systems is simulated by Eulerian Multiphase Model in this paper. This study extends the understanding of the process and mechanism of proppant transport in complex fracture system and controlling factors, which helps optimize hydraulic fracturing design in shale formation.