Fracturing fluids are commonly formulated with fresh water to ensure reliable rheology. However, fresh water is becoming more costly, and in some areas, it is difficult to obtain. Therefore, using produced water in hydraulic fracturing has received increased attention in the last few years. A major challenge, however, is its high total dissolved solids (TDS) content, which could cause formation damage and negatively affect fracturing fluid rheology. The objective of this study is to investigate the feasibility of using produced water to formulate crosslinked-gel-based fracturing fluid. This paper focuses on the compatibility of water with the fracturing fluid system and the effect of salts on the fluid rheology.
Produced water samples were analyzed to determine different ion concentrations. Solutions of synthetic water with different amounts of salts were prepared. The fracturing fluid system consisted of natural guar polymer, borate-based crosslinker, biocide, surfactant, clay controller, scale inhibitor, and pH buffer. Compatibility tests of the fluid system were conducted at different cation concentrations. Apparent viscosity of the fracturing fluid was measured using a high-pressure high-temperature rotational rheometer. All rheology tests were conducted at a temperature of 180°F and were conducted according to API 13m procedure with a three-hour test duration. Fluid breaking test was also performed to ensure high fracture and proppant pack conductivity.
Produced water analysis showed a TDS content of 125,000 ppm, including Na, Ca, K, and Mg ion concentrations of 36,000, 10,500, 1,700, and 700 ppm, respectively. Results indicated the potential of produced water to cause formation damage. Therefore, produced water was diluted with fresh water and directly used to formulate the fracturing fluid. Divalent cations were found to be the main source of precipitation, and the reduced amounts of each ion were determined to prevent precipitation. The separate and combined effects of Na, K, Ca, and Mg ions on the viscosity of the fracturing fluid were also studied. Fluid viscosity was found to be significantly affected by the concentrations of divalent cations regardless of the concentrations of monovalent cations. Monovalent cations reduced the viscosity of fracturing fluid only in the absence of divalent cations, and showed no effect in the presence of Ca and Mg ions. Water with reduced concentrations of monovalent and divalent cations showed the most suitable environment for polymer hydration and crosslinking.
This paper contributes to the understanding of the main factors that enable the use of produced water for hydraulic fracturing operations. Maximizing the use of produced water could reduce its disposal costs, mitigate environmental impacts, and solve fresh water acquisition challenges.
Post-fracturing production data analysis indicates stimulation of some west Texas wells with surfactant additives did not enhance production as high as expected. Analysis of flowback and produced water for surfactant residues revealed 99% of surfactant was retained inside wells (
Literature precedent exists that polyelectrolyte (PET)-based SAs could significantly reduce surfactant adsorption not only onto a variety of outcrop minerals (Carlpool dolomite, calcite, kaolinite, Berea sandstone, Indiana limestone, etc.) and metal oxide nanoparticles, but also unconventional shale formulations in which surface area can be up to 700 m2/g. In this study, the adsorptions of surfactant and SA to proppants were first examined. Results indicate no adsorption was observed to proppant for both surfactants and PET-based SAs. SAs (0.5 to 1 gal/1,000 gal (gpt)) were then injected with surfactant (1 to 3 gpt) at an appropriate ratio into column-packed shale formulations (primarily composed of calcite, dolomite, quartz, illite, pyrite, and plagioclase feldspar) to investigate its effectiveness in controlling surfactant retention caused by adsorption. Laboratory testing revealed injection of 3 gpt mixture of surfactant and SA has a similar adsorption profile (surface tension as a function of time) as 3 gpt surfactant alone based on the dynamic surface tension measurement. Notably, the addition of SAs resulted in lower surface tension and enhanced hydrocarbon solubility; and thus, an improved oil recovery by surfactant was achieved as evidenced by the oil recovery tests. Additionally, 68% friction reduction of the fracturing fluid with surfactant and SA was sufficient for the field operation compared to the guar-based fluid used in the hydraulic fracturing applications.
As a result of the laboratory findings, field trials were executed on a three well pad in the Permian basin (PB). For the first 30 days oil and gas production appeared to be significantly higher than the average production from offset wells in the same area that were previously fractured with the same surfactant.