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In many wells, productivity can be increased by repeated hydraulic fracturing. Repeated flow cycling has also been shown to increase productivity, sometimes significantly above what can be obtained with a single cycle. The increased productivity from repeated flow cycling suggests that a predictive capability for treating specific wells could be developed if the controlling parameters and their interactions in the flow/cycle treatment process were better understood. Although the primary role of the proppant in hydraulic fracturing is to maintain fracture opening, the proppants may have other effects such as altering the pressure distribution along the fracture (e.g., by blocking the tip) and hence significantly affecting the fracture mechanics.
Although proppant transport by fluids has been studied intensively, the coupled interaction problem of fracture propagation, fluid flow, and proppant transport has not been previously investigated. In SRI International's program to analyze the coupled interactions of proppants and fracture mechanics, proppant distributions are being determined for the coupled problem of fluid-proppant-fracture interaction, and the effects of the proppant distributions on fracture production are being evaluated for the flow/cycle treatment.
Scaled experiments in several media (PMMA and rock simulant) will check the correlation of fluid penetration and fracture propagation rate with a calculational model for the fluid-fracture interactions. The scaled experiments will also constrain the relation between the proppant distributions and the fluid-fracture interactions. The computational model will be verified by comparing calculations of the proppant distributions in the scaled experiments, for which viscous or gravitational effects are dominant, with the scaled experiments.
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