Reuse of flowback water in hydraulic fracturing is usually used by industry to reduce consumption, transportation, and disposal cost of water. However, because of complex interactions between injected water and reservoir rocks, induced fractures may be blocked by impurities carried by flowback and mineral precipitation by water/rock interactions, which causes formation damage. Therefore, knowledge of flowback water/rock interactions is important to understand the changes within the formation and effects on hydraulic fracturing performance.
This study focuses on investigating flowback water/rock interactions during hydraulic fracturing in Marcellus Shale. Simple deionized water (DI)/rock interactions and complicated flowback water/rock interactions were studied under static and dynamic conditions. In static experiments, crushed reservoir rock samples were exposed to water for 3 weeks at room condition. In the dynamic experiment, continuous water flow interacted with rock samples through the coreflooding experimental system for 3 hours at reservoir condition. Before and after experiments, rock samples were characterized to determine the change on the rock surfaces. Water samples were analyzed to estimate the particle precipitation tendency and potential to modify flow pathway.
Surface elemental concentrations, mineralogy, and scanning electron microscope (SEM) images of rock samples were characterized. Ion contents, particle size, total dissolved solids (TDS), and zeta-potential in the water samples were analyzed. After flowback water/rock interaction, the surface of the rock sample shows changes in the compositions and more particle attachment. In produced water, Na, Sr, and Cl concentrations are extremely high because of flowback water contamination. Water parameters show that produced water has the highest precipitation tendency relative to all water samples. Therefore, if flowback water without any treatment is reused in hydraulic fracturing, formation damage is more likely to occur from blockage of pores.
Flowback water management is becoming very important due to volumes produced in every hydraulic fracturing operation. Deep well injection is no longer a favorable option because it results in disposal of high volumes of water that cannot be used for other purposes. A second option is the reuse of waste water for fracturing purposes, which reduces freshwater use significantly. However, the impurities present in flowback water may deteriorate the fracturing job and reduce or block the hydraulic fracturing apertures. This study shows that a simple filtration process applied to the flowback water allows for reinjection of the flowback water without further complication to the water/rock interaction, and does not cause significant formation damage in the fractures.