Liang, Feng (Aramco Services Company: Aramco Research Center–Houston) | Al-Muntasheri, Ghaithan (Saudi Aramco) | Ow, Hooisweng (Aramco Services Company: Aramco Research Center–Boston) | Cox, Jason (Aramco Services Company: Aramco Research Center–Boston)
Summary In the quest to discover more natural-gas resources, considerable attention has been devoted to finding and extracting gas locked within tight formations with permeability in the nano- to microdarcy range. The main challenges associated with working in such formations are the intrinsically high-temperature and high-pressure bottom conditions. For formations with bottomhole temperatures at approximately 350–400°F, traditional hydraulic-fracturing fluids that use crosslinked polysaccharide gels, such as guar and its derivatives, are not suitable because of significant polymer breakdown in this temperature range. Fracturing fluids that can work at these temperatures require thermally stable synthetic polymers such as acrylamide-based polymers. However, such polymers have to be used at very-high concentrations to suspend proppants. The high-polymer concentrations make it very difficult to completely degrade at the end of a fracturing operation. As a consequence, formation damage by polymer residue can reduce formation conductivity to gas flow. This paper addresses the shortcomings of the current state-of-the-art high-temperature fracturing fluids and focuses on developing a less-damaging, high-temperature-stable fluid that can be used at temperatures up to 400°F. A laboratory study was conducted with this novel system, which comprises a synthetic acrylamide-based copolymer gelling agent and is capable of being crosslinked with an amine-containing polymer-coated nanosized particulate crosslinker (nanocrosslinker). The laboratory data have demonstrated that the temperature stability of the crosslinked fluid is much better than that of a similar fluid lacking the nanocrosslinker. The nanocrosslinker allows the novel fluid system to operate at significantly lower polymer concentrations (25–45 lbm/1,000 gal) compared with current commercial fluid systems (50–87 lbm/1,000 gal) designed for temperatures from 350 to 400°F. This paper presents results from rheological studies that demonstrate superior crosslinking performance and thermal stability in this temperature range. This fracturing-fluid system has sufficient proppant-carrying viscosity, and allows for efficient cleanup by use of an oxidizer-type breaker. Low polymer loading and little or no polymer residue are anticipated to facilitate efficient cleanup, reduced formation damage, better fluid conductivity, and enhanced production rates. Laboratory results from proppant-pack regained-conductivity tests are also presented.