In this paper we describe the possibility and benefits of incorporating the stability analysis of the proppant pack during the design stage of hydraulic fracturing treatments.
After the well is treated and cleaned up, the flowback of proppant from a fracture-treated formation is highly undesirable for several reasons, including possible damage to the wellhead and flowlines, operational complications, and last but not least, decrease in well-productivity. The issue has been studied on an empirical basis and the most important factors have been determined. Nevertheless, qualitative models suggested so far seem to work only under limited conditions and currently there is no clear methodology for predicting the occurrence of proppant flowback while designing the treatment.
In this work we review previously suggested prediction methods and analyze the proppant flowback patterns experienced in 24 South-Texas tight-gas completions. As a result of the study we conclude that the predictive power of the available models is not satisfactory and the implications for "proppant stability control agents" are not based on convincing evidence. A new semi-mechanistic model is proposed that shows reasonable agreement with both laboratory and field data. A methodology is suggested to incorporate the proppant flowback prediction at the fracture design stage. The suggested methodology is based on the concept of "minimum necessary departure from optimality to satisfy technical constraints", in this case the constraint being to keep the likelihood of proppant flowback under a certain threshold.