Insights into Effective Microbial Control Through a Comprehensive Microbiological Audit of Hydraulic Fracturing Operations

Moore, Joseph (DowDuPont Industrial Biosciences) | Massie-Schuh, Ella (DowDuPont Industrial Biosciences) | Wunch, Kenneth (DowDuPont Industrial Biosciences) | Manna, Kathleen (DowDuPont Industrial Biosciences) | Daly, Rebecca (Colorado State University) | Wilkins, Michael (Colorado State University) | Wrighton, Kelly (Colorado State University)



Hydraulic fracturing presents an ideal breeding ground for microbial proliferation due to the use of large volumes of nutrient-rich, water-based process fluids. Bacteria and/or archaea, when left uncontrolled topside or in the reservoir, can produce hydrogen sulfide, causing biogenic souring of hydrocarbons. In addition, microbial populations emerging from the downhole environment during production can colonize production equipment, leading to biofouling, microbially influenced corrosion (MIC), produced fluid separation issues, and HS&E risks. Mitigating these risks requires effective selection and application of biocides during drilling, completion, and production. To this end, a microbiological audit of a well completion operation with the objective of determining the effectiveness of a tandem chlorine dioxide (ClO2) and glutaraldehyde/quaternary ammonium (glut/quat) microbial control program was carried out. This paper describes the rationale behind selection of sampling points for a comprehensive microbiological field audit and provides the resulting critical analysis of biocide efficacy in the field using molecular assays (qPCR, ATP) and complementary culturing techniques (microtiter MPN and culture vials—commonly termed "bug bottles").

Due to the comprehensive nature of sampling and data collection, it was possible to make much more applicable and relevant observations and recommendations than it would have been using laboratory studies alone. First, multiple sources of microbial contamination were identified topside, including source waters, working tanks, hydration units, and guar. Additionally, critical analysis of biocide efficacy revealed that ClO2 treatment of source water was short-lived and ineffective for operational control, whereas glut/quat treatment of fracturing fluids at the blender was effective both topside and downhole. Analysis of the microbial load at all topside sampling points revealed that complete removal of ClO2 treatment could be offset by as little as a 10% increase in glut/quat dosage at the blender. This is a highly resolved microbiological audit of a hydraulic fracturing opration which offers new, highly relevant perspectives on the effectiveness of some biocide programs for operational control. This overview of biocide efficacies in the field will facilitate recommendations for both immediate and long-term microbial control in fractured shale reservoirs.