Foamed fluids with the gas phase of carbon dioxide (CO2) have been applied as fracturing fluids to develop unconventional resources. This type of fracturing fluids meets the waterless requirements by unconventional reservoirs, which are prone to damage by clay swelling and blocking pore throat in water environment. Conventional CO2 foams with surfactants have low durability under high temperature and high salinity, which limit their application. Nanoparticles provide a new technique to stabilize CO2 foams under harsh reservoir conditions. It's essential to determine in-situ rheology of CO2 foams stabilized by nanoparticles in order to predict proppant transport in reservoir fractures and improve oil production.
The shear viscosity and foam texture of non-Newtonian fluids under reservoir conditions are critical to transport proppant and generate effective micro-channels. This study determined the in-situ shear viscosity of supercritical CO2 foams stabilized by nano-SiO2 in the Flow Loop apparatus with shear rates of 5950~17850 s-1 at the pressure of 1140±20 psig and the temperature of 40 °C. Supercritical CO2 with the density of 0.2~0.4 g/ml and the viscosity of 0.02~0.04 cp under typical reservoir conditions were applied to generate foams. The foams were tested with high foam quality up to 80% to minimize the usage of water. The effects of shear rates, salinity, surfactant, and nanoparticle sizes and on the rheology of gas foams with different foam qualities were experimentally investigated. The foam texture and stability were observed through an in-line sapphire tube. Further, proppant transport by CO2 foams and the placement in fractures were analyzed by considering the rheology of non-Newtonian fluids and the mechanisms of gravity driven settling and hindered settling/slurry flow.
The conditions of nanoparticle foaming systems were optimized through orthogonal experimental design. The dense and stable foams were generated and observed under high pressure and elevated temperature conditions. It was observed that CO2 foams with high quality of 80% demonstrated the highest viscosity and stability under optimal conditions. The foams with nanoparticles demonstrated both shear- thinning and shear-thickening behaviors depending on foam quality and components. The salinity and nanoparticle size affect foam rheology in two ways depending on components, foam quality, and shear rates.
While the viscosities of CO2 foam stabilized by nanoparticles have been widely studied recently, no work has been done to observe the stability and texture of supercritical CO2 foam after shearing under high pressure and high temperature, not to mention proppant transport by CO2 foam. This study provided a pioneering insight to the proppant transport by viscous supercritical CO2 foam stabilized by nanoparticles.