A review of fracturing fluid systems used for hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells



Hydraulic fracturing has been used by the oil and gas industry as a way to boost hydrocarbon production since 1947. Recent advances in fracturing technologies, such as multistage fracturing in horizontal wells, are responsible for the latest hydrocarbon production boom in the US. Linear or crosslinked guars are the most commonly used fluids in traditional fracturing operations. The main functions of these fluids are to open/propagate the fractures and transport proppants into the fractures. Proppants are usually applied to form a thin layer between fracture faces to prop the fractures open at the end of the fracturing process. Chemical breakers are used to break the polymers at the end of the fracturing process so as to provide highly conductive fractures. Concerns over fracture conductivity damage by viscous fluids in ultra-tight formations found in unconventional reservoirs prompted the industry to develop an alternative fracturing fluid called “slickwater”. It consists mainly of water with a very low concentration of linear polymer. The low concentration polymer serves primarily to reduce the friction loss along the flow lines. Proppant-carrying capability of this type of fluids is still a subject of debate among industry experts. Constraints on local water availability and the potential for damage to formations have led the industry to develop other types of fracturing fluids such as viscoelastic surfactants and energized fluids. This article reviews both the traditional viscous fluids used in conventional hydraulic fracturing operations as well as the new family of fluids being developed for both traditional and unconventional reservoirs. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2014, 131, 40735.