American Oil and Gas Reporter - February 2018 - 59

SpecialReport: Advancing Shale Science

All About Contact
The end game for operators in horizontal resource plays is simple: Maximize
the stimulated reservoir volume and keep
induced fractures propped open so hydrocarbons keep flowing. Accomplishing
those objectives, says Don Conkle, vice
president of marketing and sales at CARBO, is leading the industry to pump more
proppant per well.
"There is an inclination to pump more
proppant with closer fracture stages, increasing the number of clusters and reducing stage spacing," he notes. "Some
operators are using new diverter materials,
biodegradable balls and other techniques
to achieve a higher assurance of frac initiation, but the bottom line is a lot more

Ceramic Tail-In
All Sand

1.0
0.6
0.4
Normalized Productivity Index

and availability as they pump ever-larger
volumes of sand in their wells while significantly simplifying logistics. However,
added benefits include the fact that the
system meets the new U.S. Occupational
Safety & Health Administration respirable
silica dust exposure requirements, and
also significantly reduces well site noise
levels, according to Fulton. "Dust exposures tested below the new OSHA permissible exposure levels, and below the
lower action level for PropBeast operators,"
she notes.
Trucking capacity has been tight in
the Permian for some time, and trucking
costs have been on the rise as expanding
proppant demand has created shortages
of both trucks and drivers, Fulton states.
Putting sand as close to the well as
possible helps reduce trucking miles and
costs, she notes.
"That is why we built out the strategic
footprint at the Pecos terminal," she says.
"We wanted to be able to service Delaware
Basin demand more locally, without sending trucks from the two terminals on the
Midland Basin side."
Increasing truck volumes and turnarounds is another way to offset higher
hauling costs. Fulton estimates that the
containerized system is generating a 10
percent increase in allowable sand volumes
per truck, reducing total truck trips. "We
also have seen as much as an additional
truck turn a day, depending on where the
facility is located relative to the well
site," she adds. "Logistics is the name of
the game. Being as efficient as possible
is critically important to success in any
shale play, but especially the Permian."

180 days (avg.)

0.2
0.1
0.06
0.04
0.02
0.01
0.006
0.004
0.002
0.001
3,000

4,000

5,000
6,000
Stress on Proppant (psi)

7,000

8,000

9,000 10,000

In the Eagle Ford Shale, 12 wells using high-strength, lightweight ceramic proppant were
compared against 12 wells using natural sand. As illustrated, the superior strength of
ceramic proppant resisted crushing and the rapid production decline at the 7,500+ psi
range, avoiding lost EUR.

proppant demand."
According to Conkle, CARBO sold
nearly 400 million pounds of premium
ceramics/technology proppants and 2.2
billion pounds of natural and resin-coated
sand products in 2017. He says demand
for northern white sand is expected to remain strong in shale plays, particularly
for 40/70- and 100-mesh.
While advancements have been made
in reducing logistical costs and increasing
supply flexibility, Conkle says most operators recognize that there is still more
efficiency and productivity to be gained
to maximize operator and shareholder
returns. "I ask operators what inning they
think they are in and they agree that the
game is far from decided," he relates.
Continuing the baseball analogy, Conkle says diagnostics and analytics technologies will be the next game changers
to help operators better understand where
proppant is going and how effectively
reservoirs are being fractured to enhance
productivity and efficiency. "For a hitter,
how he contacts the ball can be the difference between a foul ball and a homerun," he says. "The same is true for reservoirs. It is all about contact and the permeability of the proppant pack.
"We know the closer the perforations
and stages, the more contact there is between the lateral and the reservoir, and
the better the production should be in the
short term," notes Conkle. "However, we
do not know what effect that has over the
long term, but are now learning."

Shale wells characteristically decline
rapidly, and as production falls off and
flowing pressure declines, the frac begins
closing on the proppant with increasing
pressure. A study in the Eagle Ford compared productivity curves in 24 wells,
half of them propped with sand and the
other with sand and higher-strength ceramics tailed in, Conkle details.
"As stress on proppant reached approximately 7,500 psi, the purpose and
advantage of ceramic proppant became
clear. A significantly steeper decline occurred in the productivity index of the
dry gas wells propped with sand after
180 days of production than the ceramic
tail-in wells," he reports. "This is known
as the 'PI rollover,' which could result in
a decrease in forecasted reserves."
In Utica dry gas wells, companies are
starting to blend sand and CARBO's
KRYPTOSPHERE® ceramic, starting with
100-mesh sand and progressing to 40/70mesh ceramic, 30/50-mesh ceramic, and
finally tailing in 35-mesh KRYPTOSPHERE. "CNX Resources Corp. and several other operators have reported completing several wells in this manner with
very strong results, Conkle remarks.
New Solutions
Conkle points to a well-documented
challenge in proppant placement, noting
that analysis shows that sand often ends
up falling out of the fluid stream a short
distance into the created fracture. "Beyond
that point, the fracture is left unpropped,
FEBRUARY 2018 59



American Oil and Gas Reporter - February 2018

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