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Matrix Acidizing in Saudi Arabia by

U sing Buoyant Ball Sealers


G.E. Bale, *

Aramco

Summary
Acidizing jobs involving use of buoyant ball sealers have
been performed on several wells with varied downhole
conditions and productivities. The test objectives were to
determine whether the buoyant ball sealers are more effective than the particulate diverting materials used currently. Complete pre- and post-acidization testing provided accurate data for valid test analysis.
The buoyant ball sealers were effective in every test.
Matrix acidizing of long intervals and multiple sets of
perforations was accomplished successfully. Marked
production improvement resulted from a well previously
acidized with particulate diverting materials. Production
from an old well previously acidized six times was increased to the highest rate in its 16-year producing
history.
Buoyant ball sealers ~re the most effective means of
diverting acid when matrix acidizing perforated
completions.
Introduction
Stimulation in Saudi Arabia is performed primarily to
remove perforation damage and to establish effective
flow paths through formation damage near the wellbore.
Completion intervals in our carbonate reservoirs may be
either openhole or perforations. Production intervals will
vary from 30 to 300 ft [10 to 90 m] in thickness and may
have extreme ranges of porosities and permeabilities.
Various particulate diverting materials-wax beads, benzoic acid flakes, and graded rock salt-have been used
with varying degrees of success. High-density ball
sealers (21 g/cu in. [1.3 g/cm 3]) have been used.
There have been problems with each diverting system.
The particulate diverting system is unreliable and may
damage the reservoir. Insufficient particulate diverting
material will perform little or no diverting. Too much
particulate diverting material will cause excessive plugging, which may not clean up and can damage the formation. An example of excessive plugging occurred in an
exploration well and illustrates the problem. Thirty-five
feet [11 m] of a reservoir were perforated, acidized, and
production tested for 1,000 BID [160 m 3 / d] of oil.
Forty-five feet [14 m] of additional reservoir immediately above this interval were perforated. Rather than setting a bridge plug between the two sets of perforations or
squeezing the acidized interval with cement, particulate
diverting material was added to the first portion of acid
used for stimulating the new perforations. Both sets of
* Now

retired.

0149213618410101-1500 $00.25
Copyright 1984 Society of Petroleum Engineers of AIME

1748

perforations were on production test together for several


days. The well produced only a small quantity of oil.
The original production was not recovered.
High density ball sealers have been successful in
diverting the treating fluid whenever high injection rates
are maintained and the number of perforations has been
limited to 2 shots/ft [7 shots/m]. The minimum injection
rate required for good perforation sealing efficiency
when high-density ball sealers are used is greater than
calculated matrix acidizing rates for most wells. 1,2 The
injection rate required for effective diverting with highdensity ball sealers is not possible in many wells because
of large friction losses in small tubing and wellhead
pressure limitations. In most of the acidizing jobs we
have performed with the 21-g/cu in. [1.3-g/cm 3 ] ball
sealers, diverting efficiency has been low because oflow
injection rate and the perforation density of 4 shots/ft [13
shots/m].
The problems associated with particulate matter
diverters and high-density ball sealers have been
recognized by the oil industry for several years. One
study revealed that buoyant ball sealers were 100% efficient when the flow rate was high enough to transport the
ball sealers to the perforations. The buoyancy of the ball
depends on the density contrast between the ball and the
acid. The greater the density contrast between the ball
sealer and the carrying fluid, the higher the injection rate
must be to transport the buoyant ball sealers down the
wellbore to the perforations. 3
Field Testing Buoyant Ball Sealers
In the continuing effort to improve stimulation results in
our perforated carbonate reservoirs, field testing of the
buoyarit ball sealers at matrix rates was undertaken. Two
wells selected for buoyant ball sealer testing also were
programmed for Zone 3 production testing of the Arab D
reservoir. Zones 2 and 3 normally are completed open
hole. Successful diverting with particulate matter has
been limited by the permeability and porosity extremes
in the two zones. Liners had been installed and cemented
through Zones 2 and 3 in both wells. Zone 3 was perforated and tested. Matrix acidizing with buoyant ball
sealers was programmed. Injection pressure at the perforations was limited to 0.7 psi/ft [15.8 kPa/m] of depth.
The fracturing gradient of this reservoir is 0.80 to 0.85
psi/ft [14.5 to 16.3 kPa/m] of depth.
Example I-New Production Well S4, Zone 3. The
first well acidized had 4.5-in. [il.4-cm] liner cemented
in 6.5-in. [16.5-cm] hole and was perforated selectively
4 shots/ft [13 shots/m] (a total of 100 perforations) in
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Zone 3. Open-ended tubing was landed 50 ft [15 m]


above the top of the perforations in the liner. The well
was flared for cleanup and production tested for approximately 1,800 BID [285 m 3/d] of oil. The flowmeter
survey indicated that only the top 6 ft [2 m] of perforations were producing. The well was acidized with 6,000
gal [23 m 3] of 20 % hydrochloric acid (HCI) with
17-g/cu in. [1.050-g/cm 3] ball sealers 0.875 in. (2.22
cm) in diameter for diverting.
Gas was bled from both the open-ended tubing and annulus. Diesel was pumped to fill the well and to establish
an injection rate into the perforations. The maximum
allowable bottomhole pressure (BHP) was set 4,900 psi
[33.8 MPa] to prevent fracturing of the reservoir.
Pressure gauges were connected to the annulus and tubing lines. The pressure gauge reading on the annulus
(filled with diesel) was calculated to be 2,400 psi [16.5
MPa] when the perforation injection pressure reached
the maximum allowable 0.70 psi/ft [15.8 kPa/m] of
depth. The maximum allowable wellhead/tubing injection pressure was calculated to be 1,575 psi [10.8 MPa]
plus friction pressure after 20% hydrochloric acid filled
the tubing. The initial injection rate into the perforations
with diesel was 0.5 bbl/min [1.3 dm 3/s] at 2,200-psi
[l5.2-MPa] wellhead pressure, indicating limited entry
of fluid into the formation.
To open a sufficient number of ~erforations to increase
the injection rate, 500 gal [1.9 m ] of hydrochloric acid
were pumped down the tubing to the bottom with the annulus valve open. With the annulus valve closed, the
acid was displaced to the perforations. After the acid
reached the perforations, the injection rate increased to
2.3 bbl/min [6 dm3/s] at 1,450-psi [lO-MPa] wellhead
pressure. The injection rate required to counteract the
buoyancy of the 17-g/cu in. [1.050-~/cm3] ball sealers
in 20% HCI, 18 g/cu in. [1.100 g/cm ] is approximately
34 ft/min [10 m/min]. In 4.5-in. [11.4-cm] casing this is
equivalent to 0.5-bbl/min [1.4-dm 3Is] injection rate.
Therefore, the injection rate must be greater than 0.5
bbl/min [1.4 dm 3/ s] to transport the balls downward
through the 4.5-in. [11.4-cm] liner to the perforations.
The acid was pumf,ed with one ball sealer injected after
each 2 bbl [3.2 m ] of acid. The friction pressure of the
acid in the tubing was high. Friction reducer had not
been programmed. At 3-bbl/min [8-dm3/s] injection
rate, the pressure of the perforation remained constant
during the pumping of the first 2,000 gal [7.5 m 3] of
HCI and 24 ball sealers. Several pressure surges of 100
to 150 psi [0.7 to 1 MPa] were recorded as the next 35
ball sealers seated on perforations. The last five balls
seating on perforations increased the pressure at the perforations 650 psi [4.5 MPa], indicating that all the perforations that would accept fluid below the maximum
allowed pressure had done so.
On production test the well produced 10.3 x 10 3 BID
[1640 m 3/d] of oil with approximately 80% of the production from the top 10 ft [3 m] of perforations. The
post-and preacid flow profiles were very similar. The
postacid thermal-decay-time (TDTTM) log indicated acid
effect 30 ft [9 m] above the top perforations and in all
perforated intervals except the lowest.
Conclusions from this test were (1) the cement job on
the 4.5-in. [ll.4-cm] liner in the 6.375-in. [16.2-cm]
hole failed to confine the acid to Zone 3, (2) the ball
OCTOBER 1984

BOTTOM HOLE
TREATING PRESSURE

NO. Of BALLS ON PERFS.

24446070

tSTARTED
DIESEL
DISP.
O~~~~~~--r-,--.--~~-.--~-r~

o 10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

110

120

130

TINE (MINUTES)

Fig. 1-Pressure increases observed on the treatment log


from Production Well A7. These were attributed to the
ball sealers diverting acid into the less permeable intervals of Zone 3.

0/0 OIL TO TOTAL FLOW

100

30

non

20

10

~----,----i6900 ~---.--~--l

POST- ACID-,-'
/ PRE-ACI

'"
TOP ZONE][A

: TOP ZONE][ B

PRE-ACID PRODUCTION 918 .BOD


POST-ACID PRODUCTION 20 MBOO
Fig. 2-Pre- and post-treatment flow profiles and TOT logs
show that the buoyant ball sealers diverted acid into
every set of perforations. The TOT logs show that acid
also went 40 ft [12 m] up behind the casing.

sealers diverted acid into all the perforations that would


accept the wellbore fluids at the allowable pressure, and
(3) HCI sometimes will fail to provide an effective flow
path through a perforation or damaged zone.

Example 2-New Production Well A7. The second


well acidized was also a Zone 3 test. A 7-in. [17.8-cm]
liner was cemented in 8.5 in. [21.6 cm]. The 32 ft [10 m]
of perforations (2 shots/ft [7 shots/m]) had been shot
1749

%Oil TO TOTAL flOW

100

10

K(MD)
100 1000 10,000

PfiE-~D>t7

I POST-ACID'"
f (
f (~
I
I

?
?
I
I
I
I

!:
I
I

?
I

Ii

PRE-ACID PRODUCTION 5.9 MBOD


POST-ACID PRODUCTION 10.7 MBOD
Fig. 3-Pre- and postacid profiles show that ball sealers have
diverted acid into an interval at the base of the reservoir, which had not been stimulated in six previous
treatments.

selectively over a 65-ft [20-m] interval. A total of 10,000


gal [38 m 3 ] of 15% Hel and 14-g/cu in. [0.9-g/cm 3 ]
buoyant ball sealers were programmed for the stimulation job. Preacid production testing was 918 BID [145
m 3 Id] of oil, and 82 % of the production was from the
top 3 ft [1 m] and the bottom 10 ft [3 m] of perforations.
Ninety ball sealers were dispersed in the acid. An injection rate of 6 to 8 bbllmin [16 to 21 dm 3 Is] was
established down 2%-in. [6-cm] tubing by using friction
reducer in the acid. As illustrated in Fig. 1, there was no
increase in bottomhole injection pressure (BHIP) until 30
ball sealers were on the perforations. There were
pressure fluctuations and BHIP increased steadily until a
total of 65 balls were on the perforations, when the
pressure increased to the maximum allowed. The injection rate was reduced below ball transport rate and then
stopped to allow the ball sealers to float off the perforations. Pumping was continued slowly, below transport
rate, to inject the remaining acid into the perforations.
Postacid oil production was 20x10 3 BID [3180 m 3 /d]
with about 73 % of the production from the top two sets
of perforations (Fig. 2). The TDT log established acid
effect 40 ft [12 m] up in Zone 2 and at every set of perforations in Zone 3 (Fig. 2). The flowmeter verified the
effectiveness of the ball sealers by measuring fluid flow
from each set of perforations. About 30% of the total
production was from Zone 3. The top 3 ft [1 m] of perforations produced 1, 100 BID [175 m 3 I d] of oil per
perforation.
1750

The conclusions from this test are (1) the cement in the
annulus of the 7-in. [17.8-cm] liner and the 8.5-in.
[21.6-cm] hole failed to isolate Zone 3 from Zone 2, (2)
friction reducer added to the acid improves ball
transport, and (3) the ball sealers were 100% efficient,
effectively diverting acid into every perforation.

Example 3-01d Producing Well U6. The third test


was on a typical Arab D Zone 2 well perforated selectively 4 shots/ft [13 shots/m] for 105 ft [32 m] over 127
ft [39 m] of reservoir (Fig. 3). The well is 18 years old,
has good permeability and porosity, and had been acidized six times previously with a total of 36,000 gal [136
m 3 ] of acid. The preacid flowmeter survey indicated
5.9X10 3 BID [940 m 3 ] of oil production with 50% of
that entering the top 14 ft [4 m] of perforations. The well
was acidized with 15,000 gal [57 m 3 ] of 15%
hydrochloric acid and 400 buoyant ball sealers. Pressure
responses of the balls seating on perforations were
recorded at the surface only after 100 balls had reached
the perforations, indicating that less than 25 % of the perforations were open and producing. The pressure surges
continued throughout the remainder of the
The postacid production was 10.7 x 10 BID [1700
m 3 Id] of oil, the highest flow rate recorded from this
well in 16 years' production. The postacid flow profile is
similar to the preacid flow profile. However, the
postacid flow profile indicates that 30% of the oil production, 3.2x10 3 BID [510 m 3 /D], is from below
6,372 ft [1942 m] as compared with only 10%,590 BID
[94 m 3 Id], from preacid production. The effective
diverting of the buoyant ball sealers resulted in production from perforations that had been subjected to multiple stimulation jobs.

Job.

Example 4-Production Well K3, Multiple Intervals.


The fourth test was performed on a Hanifa producer
which has 244 ft [74 m] of reservoir. Four intervals totaling 175 ft [53 m] were perforated at 4 shots/ft [13
shots/m]. The well would not flow on production test.
The reservoir had been acidized in Feb. 1979 with
10,000 gal [38 m 3 ] of 15% Hel and 300 Ibm [135 kg] of
particulate diverting material. Multiple pressure
responses during acidizing indicated that the diverting
efficiency ofthe particulate diverting material was good.
Postacidizin~ oil production of the well was 4.5 x 10 3
BID [715 mid]. A flowmeter survey (Fig. 4) indicated
that the top 25-ft [8-m] interval was the best portion of
the reservoir and that the lower intervals also should be
productive.
The well was programmed for matrix acidizing with
20,000 gal [75 m 3 ] of 15% Hel and 650 buoyant ball
sealers for the 700 perforations. Pressure fluctuations
were recorded after only 100 balls had reached bottom
and had sealed 25 ft [8 m] of producing perforations
(Fig. 5). Maximum matrix acidizing pressure was reached after only 400 of the 650 ball sealers were on the perforations. The injection rate was reduced below that
necessary for ball transport. The injection of ball sealers
was halted. The balls sealing the perforations were
allowed to float upward out of the perforated interval.
The acid in the tubing was displaced slowly into the perforations. A total of 11,000 gal [40 m 3 ] of acid was
pumped.
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i
I

~ 35-r------------------------,

!:t-,~I

'" 2 . 0 - ' - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - '

NO. OF BAllS ON PERFS

57
100 193 247
357
406
10-r--'---'----'------'----'-----'-------'------------,

~,

% OIL TO TOTAL FLOW

100
PRE-ACID"

..

_~

0.1

K(MOl
10

54()( .

1001000

..>;}---.~
~-r POST-ACID

..",....-

~
;::J

5OC: -""

4
~

O+---,--~--,--.------'~-~~L-~-----'

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

TIME (MINUTES)

Fig. 4-Pressure increases observed on the treatment log


show that after the balls have sealed 25 ft [7.6 m) of
producing perforations the acid is diverted into lower
permeability or damaged perforations.

5'~:

::::::..

..r
: t::!>

The postacid flowmeter analysis indicates an oil production rate of 6.9 X 10 3 BID [1100 m 3 /d] compared
with 4.6 X 10 3 BID [730 m 3 Id] preacid production. The
producing interval (Fig. 4) was enlarged from a total of
25 to 60 ft [8 to 18 m] and covered the entire top set of
perforations. The flow profile indicated that there was no
production from below the top 60 ft [18 m] of perforations. The use of buoyant ball sealers resulted in 2.4
times as many perforations producing as resulted from
the use of particulate diverters in the previous test.
The ball sealers did not divert the acid across the blank
sections into the three lower perforated intervals, which
have relatively low permeability and low porosity. The
lower perforations would not accept fluid at a sufficient
rate to provide transport of the buoyant ball sealers. The
well had been perforated with IIX6-in. [4.28-cm] guns.
The small perforating guns failed to establish an effective flow path into the reservoir.
This test shows that, when planning buoyant ball
sealer diverting over multiple intervals of perforations,
consideration must be given to ensure that the lowest set
of perforations to be treated will accept the wellbore
fluid at a sufficiently high rate to transport the ball
sealers.
Example 5-Four New Zone 3 Production Tests. Four
wells, Arab D Zone 2 openhole producers, were worked
over and drilled deeper to test Zone 3, the less permeable
portion of the reservoir. A 6.375-in. [I6-cm] hole was
drilled through Zone 3 and a 4.5-in. [II.4-cm] liner was
cemented. Zone 3 was selectively perforated with 2
shots/ft [7 shots/m] and matrix acidized with buoyant
ball sealers. The injection pressure at the perforations
was maintained below formation fracturing pressure. In
all four tests, the initial injection rate of the well fluids
into the perforations was insufficient to transport the
buoyant ball sealers. It was necessary to spot acid to the
perforations before ball transport rate could be obtained.
The jobs were successful in stimulating Zone 3. Pressure
responses from the buoyant ball sealers were recorded on
every job. Logs and production tests indicated that the
acid did not go upward into Zone 2 on any of these
wells.
It was concluded that the use of buoyant ball sealers
OCTOBER 1984

PRE -ACID PRODUCTION 4.6 MBOD


POST-ACID PRODUCTION 6.9 MOOD

Fig. 5-After acidizing with particulate diverting material the


buoyant ball sealer acid job resulted in production
from double the number of perforations. Acid was not
diverted across the blank intervals because injection
of the wellbore fluids into the perforations failed.

K (MD)

% OIL TO TOTAL FLOW


100

10

100 1000 10,000

r------+----l6560

PRE -ACID PRODUCTION 16.4 MBOD


POST-ACID PRODUCTION 40.7 MBOD
Fig. 6-The postacid profile shows that the buoyant ball
sealers diverted acid into all the perforations.

resulted in effective matrix acidizing over the perforated


intervals in all four wells. Whenever Zone 3 is effectively isolated from Zone 2 by a good cement sheath in the
1751

linerlhole annulus, matrix acidizing through perforations


with buoyant ball sealers will provide effective production flow paths for all productive intervals.
Example 6-Production Well S1. A well drilled late in
1981 in the Ghawar field was perforated with 4 shots/ft
[13 shotslm] over a 100-ft [30-m] interval of the Arab D
reservoir with 11X6-in. [4.28-cm] through-tubing guns.
When tested, the well produced 16.4 x 10 3 BID [2600
m 3] of oil with a calculated + 5.4 partial penetration and
+47 skin damage. The flowmeter log (Fig. 6) indicates
production from only one-half the perforations and that
more than 50% of the total production was from a lO-ft
[3-m] interval near the bottom. To complete reservoir
studies, it was necessary that the formation skin damage
be eliminated. A matrix acid job consisting of 10,000 gal
[38 m 3] HCI and 375 buoyant ball sealers was performed. By using an effective friction reducer in the acid
an average injection rate of 6 bbl/min [16 dm 3 Is] was
achieved through 6,450 ft [1970 m] of 2%-in. [6-cm]
tubing at an average wellhead pressure of 1,800 psi [12.4
MPa]. The wellhead pressure varied only slightly while
the ball sealers were sealing on the perforations. The
postacid flowmeter survey (Fig. 6) indicated a total rate
of 40. 7 x 10 3 BID [6470 m 3 Id] of oil and that all the perforations were producing.
This test showed that: (1) our perforating techniques
needed revision, (2) pressure indications may be
minimal or nonexistent as the result of ball sealer diverting in intervals of continuous high permeability and
porosity, and (3) buoyant ball sealer use, properly
engineered, will divert treating fluid into every perforation that will accept fluid at allowable treatment
pressure.
Problems Encountered
Buoyant ball sealers that are not recovered immediately
after acidizing may create minor problems. Problems in
surface facilities caused by buoyant ball sealers can be
prevented by the installation of a ball screening device in
the flowline. On each of the test jobs described, a ball
catching device was installed in the flare line through
which the well was flowed for cleanup. Ball sealers that
were not removed from the well immediately after
acidizing caused a continuous flowmeter tool malfunction by locking the spinner of the tool. Similar problems
were caused in a positive action vane-type transfer
pump. A 2%-in. [6-cm] tubing string was plugged temporarily with ball sealers as the result of shutting in the
well overnight immediately after acidizing.
If all the ball sealers cannot be flowed from the well
when the rig is present, the tubing can be lowered to the
bottom of the perforations and the balls circulated out of
the well. When there is not a rig present and the BHP is
insufficient to provide a high production flow rate, ball
recovery was improved by using nitrogen or nitrified
diesel to displace the acid to within 100 to 300 ft [30 to
90 m] of the tubing shoe and immediately flowing the
tubing for cleanup. The higher density of the acid opposite the perforations and in the liner up to the tubing
provides the buoyancy necessary for flowing the balls off
the perforations and up into the tubing. If diesel or a fluid
of less density than the ball sealers is present at the perforations, the flow rate essential for ball transport may be
1752

greater than that initially available from the reservoir.


An effort is made to recover the ball sealers immediately after the acid jobs. Seldom are all the ball
sealers recovered. Total ball sealer recovery is not emphasized, since the problems that have been encountered
are considered minor.
Conclusions
From the buoyant ball sealer matrix acidizing tests on
our carbonate reservoirs, the following conclusions have
been made.
1. The buoyant ball sealers effectively seal perforations inside the casing. The ball sealers have no effect on
the flow of treatment fluids behind the casing or in the
reservoir as do particulate diverting materials.
2. Buoyant ball sealers that are not recovered after
acidizing may cause minor problems, which can be
eliminated by a more intensive ball recovery effort.
3. When acidizing multiple sets of perforations failure
to divert acid across nonperforated intervals will result if
the injection rate into the lower sets of perforations is
less than that required for transport of ball sealers.
4. Designing and performing successful buoyant ball
sealer diverting is accomplished with more reliability
than for all other diverting systems.
5. Buoyant ball sealers will divert fluid into every perforation that will accept the well bore fluid at the
allowable differential pressure.
6. Acidizing at matrix rates in perforated completions
can be performed successfully without the danger of formation damage associated with particulate diverting
material.
7. Acidizing perforated reservoirs that have been
stimulated previously and are not producing from all productive intervals can be performed with a high degree of
success when using buoyant ball sealers.
The buoyant ball sealer diverting system, properly
used, is the most effective and nondamaging means of
diverting acid when matrix acidizing perforated
completions.
Acknowledgments
I thank the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Petroleum and
Mineral Resources and Aramco for permission to publish
this paper and S.R. Erbstoesser of Exxon Production
Research Co. for assistance and guidance in these tests.
References
I. Harrison, N.W.: "Diverting Agents-History and Application,,"
J. Pet. Tech. (May 1972) 593-98.
2. Kastrop, J.E.: "Newest Aid to Multi-Stage Fracturing," Pet.
Engineer (Dec. 1956) B-40 through B-47.
3. Erbstoesser, S.R.: "Improved Ball Sealer Diversion," J. Pet.
Tech. (Nov. 1980) 1903-10.

SI Metric Conversion Factors


bbl x l.589 873
E-Ol
psi x 6.894757
E+OO

m3
kPa

JPT
Original manuscript received in the Society of Petroleum Engineers office Dec .. 29.
1982. Paper accepted for publication Oct. 27, 1983. Revised manuscript received
June 1, 1984. Paper (SPE 11500) first presented at the 1983 SPE Middle East Oil
Show held in Manama March 14-17.

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