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SPE 84308

High Strength, Ultra-Lightweight Proppant Lends New Dimensions to Hydraulic


Fracturing Applications
Allan R.Rickards, BJ Services, Harold D. Brannon, BJ Services, William D. Wood, BJ Services, Christopher J.
Stephenson, BJ Services, Members SPE
Copyright 2003, Society of Petroleum Engineers Inc.
This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE Annual Technical Conference and
Exhibition held in Denver, Colorado, U.S.A., 5 8 October 2003.
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Abstract
Since the earliest fracturing treatments over 50 years ago, many
different materials have been used including sand, glass beads,
walnut hulls, and metal shot. Todays commonly used proppants
include various sands, resin-coated sands, intermediate strength
ceramics, and sintered bauxite, each employed for their ability to cost
effectively withstand the respective reservoir closure stress
environment. As the relative strength of the various materials
increases, so too have the respective particle densities, ranging from
2.65 g/cc for sands to 3.4 g/cc for the sintered bauxite. Unfortunately,
increasing particle density leads directly to increasing degree of
difficulty with proppant transport and a reduced propped fracture
volume for equal amounts of the respective proppant, reducing
fracture conductivity. Intuitively, one expects a lesser density
proppant would be easier to transport, allowing for reduced demands
on the fracturing fluids, and if it had sufficient strength, would
provide increased width, hence, enhanced fracture conductivity.
Previous efforts undertaken to employ lower density materials as
proppant have generally resulted in failure due to insufficient strength
to maintain fracture conductivity at even the lowest of closure
stresses (1,000 psi). Recent research on material properties has at last
led to the development of an ultra-lightweight material with particle
strength more than sufficient for most hydraulic fracturing
applications. The current ultra-lightweight proppants have apparent
specific gravitys of 1.25 and 1.75 g/cc. Laboratory tests will
demonstrate exceptional fracture conductivity at stresses to 8,000 psi.
This paper will present data illustrating the performance of the new
ultra-lightweight proppant over a broad range of conditions and a
discussion of relative performance in field applications.

placing that particle evenly throughout the created fracture geometry.


Excessive settling can often lead to bridging of the proppant in the
formation before the desired stimulation is achieved. The lower
particle density reduces the fluid velocity required to maintain
proppant transport within the fracture, which, in turn, provides for a
greater amount of the created fracture area to be propped.
Alternatively, reduced density proppants could be employed to
reduce fracturing fluid complexity and minimize proppant
pack damage.
Two different avenues of ULW particle development research
pursued in this area are presented. The first is a porous ceramic that
uses novel resin technology to coat the outside of the particle without
invading the porosity to effectively encapsulate the air within the
porosity of the particle. Encapsulation of the air provides preservation
of the ultra-lightweight character of the particles once placed in the
transport fluid. Additionally, the resin coating significantly increases
the strength and crush resistance of the ultra-lightweight ceramic
particle. In the case of natural sands the resin coat protects the
particle from crushing, helps resist embedment, and prevents the
liberation of fines.
The second avenue of research was directed towards an even
lighter particle which may be described as a resin-impregnated and
then, coated, cellulosic particle. The cellulosic substrate is sized,
ground walnut hull. The low specific gravity of this particle allows
near neutrally buoyancy behavior in flowing streams of slickwater
type fluid. The application benefits of the ULW proppant are further
enhanced beyond those discussed above. Resin impregnation and
coating provide significantly enhanced strength beyond that afforded
by the unaltered walnut hulls alone.

Statement of Theory and Definitions

Introduction

The ULW-1.75 is a porous ceramic particle with the roundness and


sphericity common to ceramic proppants. The porosity averages
50%, yielding a bulk density of 1.10 to 1.15g/cm3. Resin chemistry
and processing technology have been developed to coat the particles,
protecting the porosity from fluid invasion. If the resin coating or
transport fluids were to significantly penetrate the porosity of the
particle, the density increases accordingly, and the particle no longer
has the same lightweight properties. The resin coat also adds strength
and substantially enhances the proppant pack permeability at elevated
stress. A comparison of the permeability versus closure stress of 1
lb/sqft of ULW-1.75 compared to Econoprop and Ottawa sand is
shown in Figure 1.

Ultra-lightweight proppants have been a subject of research efforts


for at least a decade. Generally speaking, the stronger a proppant, the
greater the density. As density increases, so too does the difficulty of

The ULW-1.25 is a resin-impregnated and coated, chemically


modified walnut hull. The bulk density of the ULW-1.25 particle is
0.85 g/cm3. Particle size and a somewhat irregular shape work in

SPE 84308

conjunction with the resin processing to provide permeable proppant


packs to stress environments as high as 8,000 psi. Figure 2
demonstrates the angularity of the 1.25 specific gravity ultralightweight particle. The low specific gravity of the ULW-1.25
particle allows near neutral buoyancy and excellent transport, even in
non-viscous fluids such as slickwater. Past studies1 indicated that
when using viscous gelled fluids, the greater the distance from the
wellbore, the harder it is to clean up the proppant pack. The ultralightweight character of the ULW-1.25 allows the transport fluids
from light slickened brines to crosslinked gels in heavy brine.

bulk density of 1.05 to 1.10 and an advantage of a 1.5:1 volume ratio


versus the Ottawa Sand. Photographs of graduate cylinders, each of
which contain 162.7g of Ottawa sand, ULW-1.75, and ULW-1.25 are
shown in Figures 7, 8 and 9. The 162.7 grams of ULW-1.25 is
shown to fill 220 mLs compared to 98 mLs for the Ottawa sand. The
162.7 grams of ULW-1.75 is observed to fill 140 mL. It is clearly
shown that the ultra-lightweight material can provide greater volume
with much less mass.

Slot flow tests were performed at the University of Oklahomas


Well Construction Technology Center. These data clearly show the
advantage of lower density particles in relation to dynamic sand fall
rates. Heavier proppants require significant fluid viscosity, elevated
fluid density, and/or high slurry velocity for effective proppant
transport. Crosslinked fracturing fluids may provide improved
transport and are also known to be damaging to the permeability of
the proppant pack if not properly broken after the treatment.

Material stress tests were performed on the ULW-1.25 using a


LFPlus Series digital-testing instrument to demonstrate the effects of
the resin impregnation and coating. This instrument tests the
individual particle strength using an applied load in Newtons versus
extenuation in mm. All tests are performed using a 500N load cell
and Nexygen/Ondio software. Penetration and entanglement of
phenolic-based resins into and within the porosity of the hull is an
important mechanism in their adhesion. Twenty individual particles
are tested and averaged for each sample. Figure 10 compares the
effect of two different types of resin on the walnut hulls.

Fracture conductivity data is presented to demonstrate the


permeability of these new ultra-lightweight proppants. The low
density particles not only provide for better transport and placement,
but also yield greater width with less mass of proppant material.
Although density and strength are related, the ultra-lightweight
proppant material exhibits excellent fracture conductivity. Additional
advantages are believed to include the capability for greater control
over the geometry of the propped fracture and minimization of height
growth through reduction of treating rates and/or dynamic gel
viscosities.

Presentation of Data and Results

Particle Strength Analysis

The break point of the unadulterated walnut hull occurs at 11,192


gf. Resin 1 reacts with the hull, creating a covalently-bonded
structure that increases extension as well as the load the particle is
capable of withstanding. The break point of the resin-impregnated
particle is over 17,000 gf, representing over a 50% increase in
strength. The particle strength was observed to achieve the maximum
increase when the second resin was applied. The break point with
second resin averages almost 29,787 gf, an increase in strength of
170%. The increased strength demonstrates extensive covalent
bonding and the intermingling of polymer chains within the walnut
hull matrix.

Microphotography
Microphotographs of the ULW-1.25 are presented to illustrate the
porous structure of the walnut hull. As shown in Figure 3, there is a
high amount of pore space in the uncoated hull and the porosity is not
highly interconnected. A microphotograph of the coated hull is
shown in Figure 4. The resin can be seen to penetrate the pore space
and the crosslinked resin entangles within the structure of the hull to
increase overall particle strength2. Adhesion of the resin to the
cellulosic substrate depends on surface wetability, penetration,
reaction, polymerization, porosity, pH, moisture content, extractives,
chemical interactions, surface free energy and the surface area that
comes into contact with the resin2.
The ULW-1.75 relies upon air encapsulated within the porosity of
a ceramic substrate to achieve the desired ultra-lightweight
properties. The microphotograph, shown in Figure 5, demonstrates
the nominal penetration of the resin. The arrow identifies a particle
that has been completely penetrated by resin (note, the dye
penetration to the core). Once fluid penetration occurs, the specific
gravity increases to approximately 2.3 g/cc. The strength of the
ULW-1.75 rivals that seen in conventional ceramic proppants.
Figure 6 shows the ULW1.75 particle with a non-penetrating resin
coat. The resin chemistry and process are designed to remain on the
outer diameter of the particle with little to no penetration.

Bulk Density and Specific Gravity


Bulk density describes the weight of proppants that will fill a unit
volume. The ULW-1.25 has a bulk density that averages 0.85g/cc
with a specific gravity of 1.25. The average bulk density for 20/40
Ottawa is 1.62g/cc with a specific gravity of 2.65. This translates to a
2.1:1 advantage for the ULW-1.25 material. The ULW 1.75 has a

Particle Settling Evaluations


Static Particle Settling
Fluid transport mechanics tells us that, all else being equal, lighter
particles fall or settle more slowly than heavier particles. Static
particle settling evaluations were conducted in fresh water to
determine the differences in settling rate between conventional
proppants and the ULW particles. Median sized 20/40 particles of
each proppant were used for the evaluations.
Stokes Law
calculations giving the fall velocity in ft/minute are presented in
Table 1 and graphically in Figure 12.
2
V = 1.15 x10 3 ( d prop
/ fluid )( Sp.Gr .Prop Sp.Gr . fluid

Where velocity is in ft/min., diameter d is the average particle


diameter and, is fluid viscosity in cps.
20/40 Proppant
Bauxite
ISP
Carbolite
Ottawa sand
RCS
ULW-1.75
ULW-1.25

Sp.Gr.
3.65
3.15
2.73
2.65
2.55
1.75
1.25

Settling Velocity ft/minute


23.2
20
17.2
16.6
15.9
11.2
4.3

Table 1. Static settling rates for various proppants as derived by


Stokes Law.

SPE 84308

As shown in Table 1 and illustrated in Figure 14, the static settling


velocity of Ottawa Sand in fresh water is 16.6 ft/min. The observed
settling rate of the ULW-1.75 and ULW-1.25 particles were 11.2
ft/min and 4.3 ft/min, or 33% and 74% respectively, less than the
settling rate of 20/40 Ottawa Sand.

Slot Flow Tests


Large-scale slot flow tests were conducted at the Well
Construction Technology Center at the University of Oklahoma to
characterize the dynamic settling rates of ultra-lightweight proppant.
Proppant transport characteristics were studied at ambient
temperature through a glass slot. The transparent slot is a 22-inch
high, 16-ft long and 0.5-inch wide parallel plate device. One
thousand gallons of test fluid was prepared and the fluid rheology
was measured using a standard Fann 35 viscometer. Fluid was then
transferred to a 200-gallon capacity ribbon blender and pumped
through the test loop to fill the transparent slot model. Once the slot
was filled with the test fluid, proppant was added to the blender to
prepare a slurry of the desired concentration. The slickwater fluid
used in the test exhibited an average viscosity of 5 to 7 cps
throughout the series of tests.
The shear rate in the slot is given by the equation:

= [sec1 ] =

1.925q[ gpm]
(w[in.]) 2 ( H [ ft ]

Where q is the rate in gallons per minute, w is width in inches


and H is height in feet.
Fluid velocity through this slot model is given by:

v[m / sec] =

0.00815q[ gpm]
( w[in.])( H [ ft ])

The proppant transport behavior of each test slurry was observed


through the slot at various flow rates. During these tests, the
proppant distribution was continually recorded with video cameras as
well as manually by observation. All bed height measurements for
this work were taken close to the discharge end of the slot flow cell.
Figure 9 is a graphic representation of the first 12 minutes of each
test for comparison.
Ottawa sand slurried in slickwater was observed to begin settling
upon entrance to the slot even at the maximum fluid pump rate.
Within 12 minutes at 90 gpm ( 378sec-1 shear rate), the bed height
was 15 inches, 68% of the total height of the 22 in. slot. Table 2
below shows the results in tabular form. Only at shear rates in excess
of 1000 sec-1 was the dynamic Ottawa Sand proppant fall rate
mitigated in the slickwater test fluid. As flow rates were lowered to
30 gpm, the Ottawa proppant bed reached its maximum bed height of
19.5 inches or 91.25% of the slot height. Above the proppant bed,
the shear rate reached 1,414 sec-1, at which point additional settling
did not occur.As the rate increased from 30 to 40 gpm (1,919 sec-1),
the bed height was actually reduced.
Very limited settling of the ULW-1.25 was observed over the
initial 14 minutes of the test as the flow rate was reduced
incrementally from 90 gpm down to 50 gpm. The equilibrium bed
height of 2 inches observed at 50 gpm compared to about 13 inches

Time,
minute
0
1
12
14
18
19
28
30
42
43
45

Fluid Rate Prop Bed


Slot Shear Above bed,
Gpm
Height (ft)
Sec-1
sec-1
90
0
378
378
90
0.25
383
443
90
1.25
381
1201
60
1.27
252
825
60
1.38
252
825
40
1.39
168
677
40
1.54
170
1076
30
1.58
116
858
30
1.67
171
1414
40
1.67
171
1919
40
1.52
169
1070
Table 2. Tabular results of the Ottawa slot flow test in
1 gpt slickwater.
observed with the Ottawa Sand. The flow rate was lowered
incrementally to 15 gpm, resulting in an equilibrium bed height
increase to about 10 inches or 46% of the slot height. As the fluid rate
was reduced and maintained at 5 gpm ( 21 sec-1 at 0.04m/sec.), the
bed height reached 1.31 ft. Note that at a flow rates of than 30 gpm,
the virtually all Ottawa Sand had settled out of the slurry. When the
fluid rate was increased to 20 gpm (539 sec-1 above the prop bed),
erosion of the bed height was observed. The erosion of the bed
increased substantially as the flow rate was increased further. Data
from the ULW-1.25 slot flow test are presented in Table 3.
The ULW-1.75 test was also initiated at 90 gpm. ULW-1.75 was
observed to be subject to some settling at 90 gpm, with the bed height
growing to 4 inches. The fluid rate was lowered to 80 gpm and bed
height grew to 6 inches. As the rates were reduced incrementally
down to 30 gpm, the ULW-1.75 bed was observed to grow with
reduced rate to 12 inches. The rate was lowered further to 5 gpm and
the bed height grew to 19 inches or 86% of the total slot height. As
observed in previous tests, as the rate is increased incrementally, bed
height decreases due to erosion and fluidization of the bed. The
ULW-1.75 results are presented in Table 4.
Time,
minute
0
2
4
12
13
14
16
20
24
28
37
46
53
56
66

Fluid Rate
Prop Bed
Slot Shear Above
Gpm
Height (ft)
Sec-1
bed, sec-1
90
0.0
378
378
90
0.08
379
396
80
0.17
337
371
80
0.38
337
425
60.2
0.4
253
324
50
0.42
210
273
40
0.50
168
232
30.5
0.60
128
191
15
0.79
63
111
10
0.92
42
85
5
1.31
21
74
10.3
1.6
43
345
20.3
1.54
85
539
29.1
1.33
122
448
90.2
1.0
380
837
Table 3. Tabular results of the ULW1.25 slot Flow Test in
1 gpt slickwater.
All three of the tested materials (Ottawa sand, ULW1.25 and
ULW1.75) settle progressively more as the velocity decreases. Due to
the decreased density, the ULWs are easily placed back in flow as
the rate is increased. The reduced density materials require less shear
increase to fluidize the proppant bed. Ottawa sand was observed to

SPE 84308

Time,
minute
0
7
8
11
12
15
17
18
20
22
23
28
29
33
34
35
37
38
40
45

Fluid Rate
Prop Bed
Slot Shear
Gpm
Height
Sec-1
90
0.0
378
90
0.33
378
80
0.38
337
80
0.54
337
70
0.58
295
60
0.71
252
60
0.79
252
50
0.83
210
50.4
0.92
212
39
0.96
164
30
1
126
31
1.29
130
20
1.33
81
8
1.44
34
5.1
1.46
21
20
1.54
84
20.5
1.58
86
40.4
1.52
170
50.6
1.46
213
60.2
1.33
253
Tabular results of the ULW1.75 slot

Above
bed, sec-1
378
463
423
478
432
412
445
386
425
345
278
443
299
159
106
534
640
1006
1048
933
Flow Test

of the 20/40 particle averages 0.022 inches. The lightweight nature


of the ULW-1.25 yields a 2:1 width advantage over standard
proppants, and in this case, size does matter. The 14/30 mesh ULW1.25 compares favorably with 20/40 Ottawa sand at 150F while the
20/40-mesh particle gives slightly lower permeability numbers than
the Ottawa sand.
Effective
Stress

Conductivity
Md-ft

Permeability
Darcies

Width
Mm

1,000

6,257

385

4.95

2,000

3,337

249

4.06

4,000

1,492

125

3.63

6,000

528

59

2.74

Table 5. Conductivity and Permeability of 14/30 1.25 sp.gr. Ultralightweight Proppant at 150F and 1 pound per ft2.

Effective
Stress

Conductivity
Md-ft

Permeability
Darcies

Width
Mm

in slickwater.

1,000

5388

330

4.16

require in excess of 1,500 sec-1 to transport the proppant in slickwater


and almost 2,000 sec-1 of shear to begin to fluidize the proppant bed.
ULW-1.25 transports easily at fluid shear rates a low as 200 sec-1.
The ULW-1.75 falls in the middle, as shear rates of 500 sec-1 were
needed for transport, and fluid shear rates of 800 sec-1 were needed to
fluidize the proppant bed.

2,000

1926

143

3.55

4,000

994

99

2.79

6,000

445

50

2.5

Table 4.

Fracture Conductivity Test Procedures


Conductivity tests were conducted according to modified procedures
found in API RP 61. Recommended Practices for Evaluating Short
Term Proppant Pack Conductivity. Standard API conductivity cells
were fitted with 10 square inch Ohio sandstone wafers to simulate the
formation. The surface of the wafer is protected while sealant is
applied to prevent flow-by of simulated reservoir fluids. The
protection is removed, and the test proppant is placed on the sealed
sandstone wafer. A top wafer is then sealed on top of the test
material. The cell is placed in a heated Dake press capable of
simulating up to 20,000-psi stress. A test fluid is then flowed through
the test pack under the desired test conditions while maintaining
Darcy flow. The differential pressure is measured across 5 inches of
the pack using a Rosemount CD 3051differential pressure tranducers
calibrated to 1 psi. Flow is measured using Micromotion Mass flow
meters. Width changes are monitored by a linear variable differential
transformer. Test temperature and pressure are ramped up. In these
tests stress is applied at an average of 50 to 100 psi per minute. Data
points are recorded via computer every 2 minutes for the test period.
An Isco 260D programmable pump applies and maintains pressure.

Fracture Conductivity Testing


The two ultra-lightweight particles prove to have significantly
different properties that achieve the same purpose. The ULW-1.25 is
a highly angular particle. Much like Brady sand, the angularity yields
a high permeability at low closure stresses. However, unlike Brady
sand, there are no fines produced as stress increases.
Conductivity at stress is given in Table 5 and Table 6 for ULW1.25. Two sizes of the ULW-1.25 are presented. The 14/30 ULW1.25 has a median particle size of .0338 inches. Median particle size

Table 6 . Conductivity and Permeability of 20/40 1.25 sp.gr.


Ultralightweight Proppant at 150F and 1 pound per ft2.
In order to evaluate the compatibility of the ULW-1.25 material
with long-term exposure to hydrocarbons in downhole conditions, an
additional fracture conductivity test was performed. A sample of the
ULW-1.25 slurried in oil was placed in a consistometer cup and
pressurized to 3,000 psi for 14 days at 200F. At the end of the curing
period 31.5 g of the sample was removed, cleaned, and tested using
the fracture conductivity test procedures previously outlined. Results
presented in Table 7 averaged higher than the uncured ULW-1.25.
Effective
Conductivity
Permeability
Width
Stress, psi
Md-ft
Darcies
Mm
2000
3699
236
4.77
4000
2370
177
4.06
6000
850
80
3.17
Table 7. Results of the long-term compatibility test. ULW1.25 was
held in a consistometer at 3,000 psi and 200F. Conductivity values
are equal to or even higher than averaged data presented.
Ceramic proppants are well known for their sphericity and
roundness attributes. The increased sphericity and roundness provide
the high proppant pack porosity, which translates to increased
permeability at higher stresses with little regard for the effects of
temperature. The ULW-1.75 is a porous ceramic with the roundness
and sphericity of a ceramic proppant and 35% less weight. New resin
technology has been developed by a supplier to encapsulate the
porosity and prevent resin invasion of the porous ceramic particles.
The microporosity of the ceramic particle does not appear to be
highly interconnected when examined by thin section analysis. Also,
as well as protecting the porosity, the entrapped air increases
buoyancy. Table 7 shows the conductivity of the ULW-1.75 versus
closure stress. These data compare favorably to those published for
commercial ceramic proppants.

SPE 84308

Effective
Stress

Conductivity
md-ft

Permeability
Darcies

Width
Mm

2,000

4,523

325

4.24

4,000

2926

249

3.58

6,000

1146

125

2.79

8,000

487

59

2.51

Well Performance
A field evaluation treatment incorporating 69,500 lbs of ULW-1.25
proppant in 195,000 Mgal of slickwater was executed. All aspects of
the operation were scrutinized to identify any operational issues such
as problems with conveyance, metering, blending, or monitoring. No
problematic issues were identified, and the treatment was
successfully placed as designed.

Case History

At the time of submission of this manuscript, the production data is


very early and offset comparisons are lacking. The initial production
of this well was tested at 2mmscfg/day and production stabilized at
1.6mmscfg/day. On a positive note, the operator has expressed great
enthusiasm with the results and more treatments are being planned.

Well Data

Conclusions

A field test of the ULW-1.25 proppant was performed in the


Granite Wash in Hemphill County, Texas. The Granite Wash is a
deep, low permeability zone where proppant areal coverage is
extremely important to well productivity. Viscosity can be used to
create and prop open fractures, but residuals from viscous fluids can
generate proppant pack damage, and even clean fluids may require
high differential pressures to facilitate cleanup deep into the propped
fracture. Reduced density proppants can be placed using less
viscous, less damaging fluids such as slickwater, which are much
easier to recover.

Table 8. Conductivity and Permeability of the 20/40 1.75 sp.gr.

Ultralightweight Ceramic Proppant at 150F and 1 pound per ft2.

The productive zone depth was 11,427 ft, having a Bottomhole


Static Temperature of 194oF and, a calculated closure stress of
approximately 5,000 psi. The 20/40 mesh ULW-1.25 proppant was
applied to this well using slickwater with 1 gpt each of a
polyacrylamide friction reducer and a clay stabilizer. The ULW1.25 has approximately a 2:1 advantage volumetrically over the
Ottawa. Therefore, the job was designed with one half the mass of
sand, which would have been applied. Thus, instead of 139,000 lbs
20/40 Ottawa Sand, the job design called for 69,500 lbs ULW-1.25 to
be used.
Frac Design Comparisons
Meyers Mfrac was used to evaluate the differences proppant
density may make in fracture geometry and proppant placement. The
simulated slickwater fracs were performed at 80 BPM down 4.5 inch
11.6# N-80 casing. A total of 133 ft of zone is perforated with 73
holes. In the base case, the simulation included 140,000 lb of 20/40
Ottawa Sand. In the comparison case, the Ottawa Sand was replaced
by 69,500 lbs of 20/40 ULW-1.25.
Output from the Mfrac designs are shown for both Ottawa and
ULW1.25. Using the same design and changing only the proppant
yields the same fracture geometry. The Ottawa, as shown in the slot
flow tests, settles rapidly near the wellbore resulting in a proppant
bank in which most of the proppant resides below the target zone.
The propped fracture length, particularly that in zone, is much shorter
than the created fracture length.
The ULW-1.25 design resulted in proppant placement much
more evenly across the created fracture with substantially improved
propped fracture length within the zone. The proppant placement
profiles for these comparisons are shown in Figures 13, 14, 15 and
16. Vertical width profiles are also presented. The ULW proppant
was predicted by the model to provide favorable proppant transport
characteristics even at the lowest shear rates encountered. Coverage
of the producing zone is shown to be significantly improved in both
vertical and fracture conductivity profiles.

Two new ultra-lightweight proppants have been developed and


evaluated for fracturing applications. These new materials have
specific gravities of 1.25 and 1.75 g/cc, and particle strengths
useful for hydraulic fracturing applications over a broad range
of conditions.
Since the ULW proppants are much lower in density than
conventional proppants, they occupy much more volume per
unit mass. 1 lb/sqft of the ULW-1.25 proppant exhibits a
fracture width almost equivalent to 2 lb/sqft of similarly sized
Ottawa Sand.
Extensive slot flow testing has been conducted to compare the
transport characteristics of the ultra-lightweight proppants with
conventional sand proppants. The ULW proppants were
successfully transported at rates far lower than possible with
conventional proppants.
Fracture conductivity testing demonstrated that the ULW
proppants provide very good conductivity within their
designated closure stress applicability range.
The development of ultra-lightweight proppant allows for the
use of less viscous fluids for optimal proppant placement and
improved control of the created fracture geometry .
The ultra-lightweight proppant has been successfully applied in
a slickwater fracturing treatment at a reservoir depth of over
11,000 ft in the Texas Panhandle.

Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank BJ Services Company for permission
to publish this work. The authors would also like to express their
appreciation to Fritz Industries, Inc. and Carbo Ceramics Inc. for
their contributions to the successful development of these new
technologies.

Nomenclature
Lbf x 4.448
Kgf x 9.8
In x 2.54
F(F-32/1.8)

=N
=N
=cm
=C

SPE 84308

References
1.

2.
3.
4.
5.

6.

Frederick, J.M., Hudson, H.G. and Bilden, D.M., The Effect of


Fracture and Formation Flow Variables on Proppant Pack
Cleanup: An In-depth Study, presented at the Formation
Damage Symposium in Lafayette February 1994.
Sinclair, A.R., Graham, J.W. and Sinclair, C.P. Improved Well
Stimulation With Resin-Coated Proppants presented at the
Production Operation Symposium in Oklahoma City, 1983.
Rowell, Roger M., Chemical Modification of Wood for
Improved Adhesion in Composites. USDA Forest Service
Products Laboratory, Madison Wisconsin.
Grunewater, John F. Et.al. Transparent Coating System for
Providing Long Term Exterior Durability to Wood United
States Patent 4,913,972, April 3,1990.
Webb, P.J.C, Nistad, T.A., Knapstad, B., Ravenscroft, P.D. and
Collins I.R., Economic and Technicl Features of a
Revolutionary Chemical Scale Inhibitor Delivery Method for
Fractured and Gravel Packed Wells: Comparative Analysis of
Onshore and Offshore Subsea Applications presented at the
SPE Formation Damage Symposium in Lafayette,
February 1998.
Brannon, Harold D., Tjon Joe Pin, Robert M., Carmen Paul S.,
and Wood, William D., Enzyme Breaker Technologies: A
Decade of Improved Well Stimulation. Presented at the SPE
Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition in Denver
Colorado, 2003.

SPE 84308

1.75 Sp.Gr. UltraLightweight Proppant


Permeability vs Closure Stress Compared with Econoprop

Permeability, Darcies

1000

100

10

1
0

1000

2000

3000

4000

5000

6000

7000

8000

9000

Closure Stress, psi


ULP 1.75

Figure 1

Ottawa

Econoprop

A comparison of the permeability of the 1.75 specific gravity ultra-lightweight proppant vesus Econo prop and Ottawa.
Data at 1 lb/sqft.

Figure 2. Photograph showing the angularity of the 1.25 specific gravity ultra-lightweight proppant.

SPE 84308

Figure 3. Microphotograph of an uncoated ULW1.25 particle exhibiting the porous nature of the particle.

Figure 4. Microphotograph of the ULW1.25 Particle after resin coating.

SPE 84308

Figure 5. Ceramic ULW1.75 particles after resin has penetrated the particle. Both density and strength are increased with the
resin penetration.

Figure 6.

Microphotograph of the Ceramic ULW1.75 particles. Resin is maitained on the surface with little to no penetration.

10

SPE 84308

Figure 7. Photograph of a graduate cylinder containing 162.7r Ottawa sand.

Figure 8. Graduate cylinder containing 162.7g ULW1.25 ultralightweight propping material.

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11

Figure 9. Graduate cylinder containing 162.7g ULW1.75 ultra-lightweight propping material.

Break Point Test ULP 1.25


350

300
Break Point 29787 gf

Load (N)

250

200

150

100
Break Point 17298 gf
50
Break Point 11192 gf
0
0.00

0.10

0.20

0.30

0.40

0.50

0.60

0.70

0.80

0.90

1.00

Extention, (mm)
ULP1.25

Unreacted Hull

Resin 2

Figure 10. Results of Particle Strength Analysis of the base hull and the effects of two different resins on particle strength.

12

SPE 84308

Static Proppant Settling Rates

25

Velocity, ft/minute

20

15

10

0
Bauxite

ISP

Carbolite

Ottawa
Sand

RCS

ULW1.75

ULW1.25

Proppant

Figure 11. A comparison of static proppant settling rates in water.

Bed Height Growth in Parallel Slot Flow Tests


16

14

Rate held at 90 gpm

Bed Height, inches

12

10

Rate slowed from 90 gpm to 60 gpm


6

Rate slowed to 10 gpm


2

0
0

10

11

12

Time, minutes
Ottawa

ULP 1.25

ULP 1.75

Figure 12. Graphic representation of the results of the first 12 minutes of the slot flow tests normalized for comparison.

SPE 84308

13

Figure 13. Mfrac graph of the propped width profiles for Ottawa sand placed in a slick water fracture stimulation at 80BPM.

Figure 14. Mfrac Graph of the propped width profile for ULW1.25 placed in a slickwater fracture stimulation at 80 BPM.. The lighter
density yeilds extra length. While the width is less the area covered is much greater.

14

SPE 84308

Figure 15. Mfrac Graph of the vertical width profile of the Ottawa slickwater fracture stimulation. Only the lower part of the zone has
any coverage.

Figure 16. Mfrac Graph of the vertical width profile of the ULW1.25 slickwater fracture stimulation. The entire zone is covered more
evenly with the ultralightweight particle.