Development of new testing procedures to measure propped fracture conductivity considering water damage in clay-rich shale reservoirs: An example of the Barnett Shale Academic Article uri icon


  • 2015 Elsevier B.V. Multi-stage hydraulic fracturing is the key to the success of many shale gas and shale oil reservoirs. The main objective of hydraulic fracturing in shale is to create fracture networks with sufficient fracture conductivity. Due to the variation in shale mineralogical and mechanical properties, fracture conductivity damage mechanisms in shale formations are complex. Standard fracture conductivity measurement procedures developed for fractures with high proppant concentration had to be modified to measure the conductivity in fractures with low proppant concentration. Water-based fracturing fluids can interact with the clay minerals in shale and eventually impact shale fracture conductivity. All these challenges require more experimental studies to improve our understanding of realistic fracture conductivity in shale formations. The aims of this work were to design an experimental framework to measure fracture conductivity created by low concentration proppants and to investigate the mechanisms of conductivity damage by water. We first presented the laboratory procedures and experimental design that can accurately measure fracture conductivity of shale fractures at low concentrations of proppants. Then we measured the undamaged shale fracture conductivity by dry nitrogen. Water with similar flowback water compositions was injected to simulate the damage process followed by secondary gas flow to measure the recovered fracture conductivity after the water damage. This study shows that the developed laboratory procedures can be utilized to reproducibly measure shale fracture conductivity by both gas and liquid. The conductivity measurement of propped fractures by small size proppants at low concentrations requires strict control on gas flow bypassing the fracture both parallel and perpendicular to the fracture length direction. Shale fracture surface softening is identified as the dominant cause for the significant conductivity reduction after water flow.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Zhang, J., Kamenov, A., Zhu, D., & Hill, A. D.

citation count

  • 25

complete list of authors

  • Zhang, Junjing||Kamenov, Anton||Zhu, D||Hill, AD

publication date

  • November 2015