Experimental Investigation of Proppant Flow and Transport in Intersected Hydraulic Fractures
- Author(s): Ma, Wenpei
- Advisor(s): Tomac, Ingrid
- et al.
This study investigates proppant flow and transport in intersecting fractures at angles typical for intersections of pre-existing and new hydraulic fractures. Proppant is small granular material, which is placed into hydraulic fractures during geothermal and hydrocarbon reservoir stimulation and props the fluid paths open during reservoir exploitation. This study uses plexiglas laboratory slot experiments enhanced with an advanced image analysis for identifying particle trajectories and quantifying slurry velocities. Although proppant flow and transport has been broadly studied, the effects of intersecting fracture angles have not, especially coupled with fluid viscosities, flow rates, and proppant volumetric concentration effects. This study specifically investigates the role of intermediate fracture angles, which have been identified to occur most frequently when the new hydraulic fractures intercept the existing ones. Results show that proppant flow and transport behavior after the intersection is very sensitive to carrying fluid viscosity and flow rates alteration, while differentiating proppant volumetric concentrations have a limited effect. Fracture intersection angle itself has a clear effect on proppant flow velocities and proppant settlement; furthermore, it enhances the effects from fluid viscosity, fluid flow rates, and proppant volumetric concentrations. This study also studies the proppant agglomeration phenomenon in intersecting fractures. Different shapes of agglomerations are observed and categorized.