Predictive Analysis Improves Environmental Impact, Optimizes Frac Performance

A new frac fluid optimization process uses an extensive database coupled with a simple but effective method of selecting appropriate friction reducers (FRs), thus equipping an operator with the proper pre-job analysis to choose the FR that best fits its cost structure and ESG initiatives.

Universal engineers monitor frac job performance on a well in the Permian. (Source: Universal Pressure Pumping)

According to a September 2021 article in National Law Review, Bloomberg tracked almost 300 mentions of ESG on energy company earnings calls in the first quarter of the year. As focus on ESG gains momentum in the oil and gas industry, some E&P company solutions, including optimized hydraulic fracturing designs, are becoming increasingly relevant. The article noted that "E&P companies can indeed look at water recycling in fracking to address the 'E' component." The apparent implication is produced water. 

Most operators would like to use more produced water for hydraulic fracturing, significantly reducing water disposal and reliance on fresh water. The main issue with a higher ratio of produced water is that water variability in quality causes unpredictability in pumping pressures. This, in turn, increases pumping costs and fuel consumption (and, by extension, emissions). Universal Pressure Pumping has developed a new frac fluid optimization process with various friction reducers (FRs), and a wide variety of water qualities allows a higher percentage of produced water utilization while maintaining cost efficiency traditionally seen with freshwater-based fluids.

FRs are necessary to reduce the frictional effects (extra pressure) as water is pumped down the long pipe (wellbore) during the hydraulic fracture treatment. Produced water has elevated levels of constituents, which reduces the effectiveness of FRs. Therefore, it is more important than ever for pre-job testing to ensure the proper FR is selected for the application. Traditionally pre-job testing for FRs includes extensive water analysis, compatibility testing with other chemistry and flowloop analysis. 

Flowloop analysis is a standard laboratory test used to evaluate friction pressure losses of fluid before and after the incorporation of designed chemistry. Test results are expressed as a percentage of friction reduction of chemically treated fluid versus the untreated base fluid. Although flowloop usage has been a good benchmark for comparative analysis between products, historically, there have been limitations to methods correlating this to predictive performance in the field. 

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