American Oil and Gas Reporter - April 2022 - 58

Drilling Mud Returns
Contain Valuable Insights About
Proppant Distribution
By Debotyam Maity
and Jordan Ciezobka
DES PLAINES, IL.-A new proppant
log technique using drilling mud returns
from child wells was developed using
through-fracture cores at the Hydraulic
Fracturing Test Site in the Midland Basin
(HFTS 1) and validated through actual
mud return samples from test wells at
HFTS 2 in the Delaware Basin.
The proppant log methodology provides
qualitative as well as quantitative
insights into spatial distribution of proppant
sand particles from the prior stimulation
of parent wells. As a child well is
being drilled, periodic mud return samples
are collected at the rig site and preserved
for analysis. The workflow involves systematic
cleaning of the samples and segregating
into relevant size fractions of
interest (i.e., < mesh 20) based on specifications
of pumped sand during parent
well stimulation.
The clean samples are imaged using
high-resolution transparency scanning.
Scan images are then systematically analyzed
for particles of interest using computer
vision techniques. Sample counts
are further validated using elemental
analysis of smaller subsamples at various
depths. This step is necessary to isolate
proppant versus other naturally occurring
minerals such as sulphates and carbonates
with similar optical properties.
Using the approach at HFTS 2, proppant
distribution was correlated successfully
against the existing parent well and validated
propped versus relatively unpropped zones
for a child well. A plethora of data available
at the test site allows spatial proppant distribution
to be correlated against variability
in stimulation response based on independent
observations such as image logs,
microseismic attributes, and distributed
acoustic sensing, all of which tend to corroborate
one another. One of the significant
successes of this project was accurately
describing varying degrees of impact of
the parent well along the lateral length of
a stimulated child well.
The workflow represents a systematic
and one-of-a-kind interpretation of spatial
58 THE AMERICAN OIL & GAS REPORTER
proppant distribution while drilling child
wells. The insights provide unique opportunities
to better understand the current
state of the target reservoir, including
zones that are likely more drained relative
to others and how the planned completion
of the child well can be improved. Finally,
the log can be useful for validating optimal
well spacing in new field development.
Earlier through-core experiments at
the Midland Basin HFTS 1 provided insights
regarding proppant transport and
far-field screen out behavior, and helped
explain propped fracture growth as associated
with various stage and cluster
designs. However, proppant particles
can be detected in other subsurface samples
as well, such as mud returns. Researchers
recognized that if samples
could be analyzed systematically, it
might be possible to generate a useful
proppant log for infill well drilling, and
in turn, help improve infill hydraulic
fracturing programs.
HFTS 2 Project
The study was piggybacked on other
tests being carried out as part of HFTS 2.
The test area already had pre-existing
producing laterals (BR1H/BR2H) and
the mud return samples were collected
while drilling the B2H child well. The
sampling process involved collecting a
FIGURE 1
Identified Normalized Proppant Counts at
Logged Locations in B2H Child Well
BR1H/BR2H
x104
180
160
140
10
120
100
80
60
40
20
5
15
x105
1.2
1.4
1.6
1.8
2
1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
1.1
1.2
1.3
1.4
1.5
MD (ft)
1.6
1.7
1.8
1.9
x104
slipstream of mud returns to get a subsample
for later analysis to search for
proppant at predetermined depth intervals.
Each composite sample is based on the
depth range when the sample was collected.
In
terms of the relative positioning of
the child well versus BR1H and BR2H,
the parent wells' laterals are much shorter
than the child well. Furthermore, the distance
of the new lateral with respect to
the parent laterals is 375 feet above and
700 feet to the west of BR1H and 125
feet below and approximately 1,400 feet
to the west of BR2H. The parent wells
were typical plug-and-perf slickwater
completions with 20-22 frac stages at
200-foot spacing. The stages typically
had six clusters and 100-mesh sand.
The high-resolution log images capture
most of the proppant and provide a reasonably
accurate quantitative indication
of the number of particles present in the
imaged sample. For quality control, scanning
electron microscopy and energy dispersive
X-ray spectroscopy analysis is incorporated
to accurately discriminate actual
proppant from other proppant-like particles
such as calcites and sulphates, which also
can be on the scale of 100-mesh sand
(≤100 microns). In fact, actual samples
from the field suggest that 100-mesh sand
particles can be as small as 60 μm.
Sample rate (ft.)
#Proppant (g -1
)
# Calcite or minerals (g -1
)

American Oil and Gas Reporter - April 2022

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Contents
American Oil and Gas Reporter - April 2022 - Intro
American Oil and Gas Reporter - April 2022 - Cover1
American Oil and Gas Reporter - April 2022 - Cover2
American Oil and Gas Reporter - April 2022 - Contents
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