Investigation Of Liquid Loading Mechanism Within Hydraulic Fractures In Unconventional / Tight Gas Reservoirs And Its Impact On Productivity


One of the major challenges in fracturing low permeability/tight/unconventional gas formations is the loss of frac water and well productivity due to fluid entrapment in the matrix or fracture. Field results have indicated that only 15-30% of the frac fluid is recovered at the surface after flow back is initiated. Past studies have suggested that this water is trapped in the rock matrix near the fracture face and remains trapped due to the high capillary pressure in the matrix. Significant efforts have been made in the past to understand the impact of liquid blocking in hydraulically fractured conventional gas wells. Numerous remediation measures such as huff and puff gas cycling, alcohol or surfactant based chemical treatments have been proposed to reduce fracture face damage. However, when considering hydraulic fractures in unconventional reservoirs horizontal wells, the fluid may also be trapped within the fracture itself and may impact the cleanup as well as productivity. This study shows that under typical gas flow rates in tight / shale gas formations, liquid loading within the fractures is likely to occur. Most of the previous simulation studies consider a 2D reservoir model and ignore gravity, considering the high vertical anisotropy (or extremely low vertical permeability) in these tight reservoirs matrix. However, this study presents the results of 3D simulations of liquid loading in hydraulic fractures in horizontal wells, including gravity and capillary pressure effects. Both CMG IMEX and GEM have been used to study this phenomenon in dry and wet gas cases. The impact of drawdown, fracture and reservoir properties on liquid loading and well productivity is presented. Results show that low drawdown, low matrix permeability or low initial gas rates aggravate the liquid loading problem inside the fracture and thereby impact the cleanup and gas productivity during initial production. A clear understanding of the phenomena could help in selection of optimal production facilities and well profile.