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Society of PetroleumEngineers

SPE 35600
High-Quality Foam Fracturing Fluids
Phillip

C. Harris

and Stanley

J. Heath,

Halliburton

Energy

Services

Foam

This papar was prepared for presentatmn at the SPE Gas Technology Sympowum held In
Calgafy Albena, Canada, April 28. May 1, 1996.
Thm Papef was selecmd fof presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of
reformation contamad m an abstract submmed by the author(s). Contanls of the paper, as
presented, have not been reviewed by the Scciety of Petroleum Engmews and are subloct to
correction by the author(s). The material, as presentti,
.dwJs not necessarily reflect any
posmon of the SO.361y of Patroleum Engme8rs. its 0fflC019. 01 members. Papers presented at
SPE meelmgs are subject to publication rewew by Edltcmal Committees oi the Society of
Petroleum Engineers Permission to cow is restricted to an abstract of not mom than 3C0
words. Illustrations may not be copied. The abslract should con lam conspmuous acknowlodg mem of where and by Mom the papw was presented Write L!brarian, SPE, P O Box 633836,
Richardson, TX 75083.3836, U,S.A, tax 01.214.952-9435.

Abstract
A recent research project was conducted to determine whether
a stable, fine-textured, gs~o gas content foam could be made.
The viscosities of 95-quality NJ foams were measured in a
recirculating flow loop viscometer.
Only foam prepared from 2% of an anionic surfactant with
plain water had uniform, fine-bubble structure (texture) at 95
quality. All other combinations of additives or other foamers
(nonionic, amphoteric or anionic, and/or 0.24% guar) produced
unstable foams at 95 quality and stable foams at lower quality.
Foams that were unstable at 95 quality

typically

at nitrogen

qualitles

----

of 7(I to 9tl have

Experimental
Base liquids consisted of either tap water or O.24% guar polymer
in tap water. Foaming agent was mixed into the base fluid at a
concentration of 2% (by volume) unless otherwise noted. Liquid
phase composition and foamer types are listed in Table 1. The
foamer surfactants that were tested are typical of commercial
materials used in foam fracturing service work; two anionics,
one nonionic, and one amphoteric were tested. Anionic surfactant number one was used for all experiments except where
noted.
The base liquid was pumped into the recirculating flow loop
viscometers and pressurized to 1,000 psi. Nitrogen gas was bled
into the pipeline loop while the loop was being recirculated at
1,000 see.To generate 95-quality N*foam, Nz was pumped into
the loop, displacing 613 mL of liquid from the 645-mL volume
of the loop through a backpressure regulator. Liquid displacement was measured by trapping the effluent in a beaker on a
digital balance. When gas was added, viscosity was monitored
and foam was observed through the visual port for the appearance of large gas bubbles. The nitrogen quality shown in Figures
1 through 4 was calculated from specific gravit y readings of the

contained

slugs of N, gas within the foam structure. Unstable, highquality foams did not invert phases to forma mist. Instead, such
foams were mixtures of very small and very large bubbles. The
net viscosity and stability of those fluid systems were lower than
that of a uniform, fine-textured foam.
Yield points were measured for fine-textured foams at 70 to
95 quality. These new yield points were higher than yield points
in earlier da[a.
large

Introduction
Foam fracmring is a standard technique used in North America
to stimulate low-permeability reservoirs, including shales and
coal seams. Foams are attractive because the water content of a
foam fluid is very small, reducing the damage potential to
sensitive formations. A foam fluid consists of a high percentage
of a gas-internal phase and a lesser percentage of a liquidexternal phase that includes a stabilizing surfactant called a
foaming agent. Foams are viscous fluids used for creating
fracture geometry and transporting proppant into the fractures.

References at the end of the paper.

.. .
been apphed
effectively in the formation types mentioned above. Alternatively, even pure N* without proppant will stimulate gas production from these low-permeability formations in some areas.z~
Liquid CO1 with a small concentration of proppant has also been
reported to stimulate gas production.4
One way to minimize the amount of water injected is to use
a foam quality higher than 90. Although the water content of a
90-quality foam is only 10%, 95- or higher quality foam contains even less water (5%). The danger of increasing the quality
is that at some point the liquid will stretch to cover so much
surface area of bubbles that the foam may collapse or even invert
phases to become a mist. Assuming sufficient foam stability, 95quality foam has enough viscosity to place proppant.
This paper shows the requirements for building high-quality (95% gas content) foam fracturing fluids. The effects of
external phase composition, foaming agent type and concentration, shear rate history, and gas type (Nz and C07) on viscosity
development were examined in the study.

Copyright 1996, SCciety of Petroleum Engineers Inc

265

HIGH-QUALITY

FOAM FRACTURING

FLUIDS

SPE 35600

prove the foam texture or viscosity. When the nonionic foams


were being built at 1,000 see-, large gas slugs began to appear
at about 80 quality, and adding more gas caused a reduction in
viscosity. The appearance of large gas slugs indicates that
additional gas cannot be easily incorporated into the stable
structure of this foam. Higher quality foam consisted of a
portion of 80-quality foam and a portion of large gas slugs. Very
high-quality foams did not invert to a mist. Rather, the texture of
the foam became coarse. A nonuniform texture foam would not
transport propping agents as well as a uniform texture foam.

mass flowmeter (Table 2). Actual qualities were calibrated


basedon the mass of Iiquidexpelled onto a digital balance. After
reaching final quality, the foam fluid was circulated for 5
minutes at 1,000 see- to produce equilibrium texture.
After equilibrium was reached, rheogram data were collected at room temperature. The foam was heated to 120F, and
additional rheogram data were collected. The data were imported into a spreadsheet for plotting and analysis
Water Foams
Figure 1 shows the buildup of a water-based foam fluid created
by slowly feeding nitrogen gas into a recirculating stream of
water containing surfactant, creating an increasing concentration of gas. Gas incorporated into the foam fluid by dividing into
small bubbles surrounded by the external aqueous phase and
stabilized by an anionic surfactant. When the addition of gas no
longer produced small bubbles, large slugs of gas with a corresponding decrease in viscosity were observed at the visual port.
A minimal change in viscosity was observed for water foams in
the range of 5 to 50 quality. However, as gas quality increased
above 50, the rise in viscosity was exponential. Gas addition was
continued until the foam reached 95 quality.
High-quality foams require high surfactant concentrations.
Fracturing foams in the 65- to 80-quality range use 0.2 to 0.5%
of typical commercial foaming agents. Figure 1 shows that 2%
surfactant produced 20% higher viscosity at 95 quality than
1.5% surfactant and 40~0 higher than 1% surfactant. The difference in viscosity indicates that maximum structural stability and
finest texture can be achieved only with high enough surfactant
concentration to fully coat the maximum possible number of
bubbles in the foam. sThese foams gave no evidence of large gas
slugs or foam breakup. There was no difference between the
fluids up to about 85 quality. Increasing to higher quality means
greater potential surface area of gas bubbles, and less liquid to
form the thin films around the bubbles. Surfactant concentration
must be high enough in the small volume of liquid to create finetextured foams and provide viscosity stability at high shear rate.
In the case of this anionic foaming agent, 2% concentration
appeared sufficient to stabilize a 95-qua]ity foam.
In field operations, foams are generated under high shear
conditions and are then pumped down along tubing string, often
in turbulence. It is important that foams be stable under high
shear conditions to maximize their performance for creating
fracture geometry and transporting proppant.
The flow of foam was stopped to measure the static halfdrain (time for one-half the liquid to drain from the foam). The
amount of free liquid was too small to measure in the high-pressure visual cell. However, the foam structure remained
stable for more than 3 hours.s
Figure 2 shows results of the attempts to use a nonionic
foaming surfactant for high-quality foams. These foams were
about 60~0 as viscous as the anionic foams at 90-quality and
about Zs!lo as viscous as the anionic foams at 95 quality.
Increasing surfactant concentration from 2 to 3~0 did not im-

Polymer Foams
Figure 3 shows the buildup of polymer foam created by adding
Nz to a base liquid containing ().zA~o guar polymer and an
anionic surfactant.
A fine-textured foam was developed up to nearly 90 quality,
but there was poor incorporation of gas above 90 quality. The
95-quality foam actually had less viscosity than the 90-quality
foam, indicating some breakdown of texture. Adding a gelling
agent to a foam fluid usually causes an increase in viscosity of
the foam fluid, and this was the case in these tests up to 90
quality. However, increasing viscosity of the aqueous phase
also retards diffusion of surfactant, not allowing fresh surfaces
to be stabilized during high shear circulation. High shear rates
promote foam breakdown. The quality/shear interaction was
different for various surfactants, and about 90 quality at 1,000
see-] appeared to be the limit for this specific system. The
nonequilibrated viscosity above 90 quality was about the same
as for the anionic foamer/water system.
Figure 4 shows the effect of replacing the anionic surfactant
with a different foaming agent, either anionic or amphoteric.
Both of these foaming agents were less efficient stabilizers than
the original anionic surfactant because large gas slugs began to
appear at lower qualities, resulting in poorer textures. All three
of these chemicals had equally good viscosity performance up
to about 75 quality, in the range that conventional foam fracturing treatments are performed. These data indicate that it cannot
be predicted which foamers will stabilize very high-quality
foams based on tests done at a lower quality.
Surfactants intended for different purposes, such as a foaming agent and a non-emulsifier, are often mixed together in a
fracturing fluid. When 0.570 of the nonionic surfactant was
mixed together with 2%0of Anionic Number 1, instability was
observed at high quality and high shear rates.
Foam Rheology
Previously published correlations for equilibrated aqueous foams
up to 80 quality were based on the observation that the power
law index, n, was the same for the foam as for the neat liquid
phase (water has an n value of 1.0), so water foam should have
a limiting value ofn=1.Oat high shear rates. Similarly, n values
for base gels tended to be the same as for foams made from those
base gel fluids. The n values of the fine-textured foams were
much lower than expected. As shown in Table 3 and Figure 5,

266

SPE 35600

PHILLIP C. HARRIS AND STANLEY J. HEATH

Tests performed at lower quality (759.) cannot successfully


predict which foamer type will stabilize a high-quality foam.
High-quality foams required high surfactant concentrations.
The n values of fine-textured foams at high quality were
lower than expected because of high surfactant concentrations.
Yield points became increasingly Iargeas quality increased.
Water foams of 90 and 95 quality had higher viscosities than
foams containing gelling agent.

the n value (determined from slope limit at high shear rate) for
a 70-or lower quality foam maybe near unity, but higher quality
foams had decreasing values of n.
The smaller nvalues may have been caused by higher-thannormal surfactant concentration. Normal low-quality foams
require only about 0.2 to 0.5% foaming agent with little effect
on the properties of the external liquid phase. High-quality
foams require much higher surfactant concentrations. As the
Iamella become much thinner with increasing surface area, free
liquid in the foam becomes scarce, and the properties of that free
liquid are strongly influenced by the relatively high concentration of surfactant. A 2% surfactant concentration approaches the
range in which gel-like properties appear for some surfactant
types. This association phenomenon may be occurring in highquality foams, causing a reduction in n values.
Yield points became increasingly large as quality increased.
It was estimated that the yield points of the high surfactant
concentration water foams graphically by extrapolation of the
linear plots in Figure 6.
The estimated values listed in Table 3 were compared to
previous work, and viscosity values were also calculated. Yield
points were found to be similar for 70-to 75-quality foams but
were substantially higher at 80 to 95 quality with 2~0 surfactant
present.
Rheograms were also measured for equilibrated foams of
70 to 95 quality containing 0.24% guar as the external phase.
The viscosity measurements agree reasonably well with 70- to
80-quality foams calculated from FOAMVISCS (with input n =
0.671 and K = 0.00176). (See Table 4.) At 85 to 95 quality, the
equations overpredict, perhaps because of some texture breakdown in the actual foam. For90- and 95-quality foams, the water
foams had higher viscosities than the foams containing 0.24%
guar.
Rheograms measured at 120F had characteristics similar to
the 80F rheograms but with slightly lower viscosity caused by
temperature thinning (Figure 7).

Nomenclature
K = consistency index, lbf-sec/ftz
n = flow-behavior index
Acknowledgments
The authors wish to thank Halliburton Energy Services
management for the opportunity to present this work.
Bibliography
1. Ha~isi P~C.: Application of Foam Fluids to Minimize
Damage During Fracturing, paper SPE 22394 presented at
the 1992 International Meeting of Petroleum Engineering,
Beijing, China, March 24-27.
2. Freeman, E. R., et al.: A Stimulation Technique Using
Only Nitrogen, paper SPE 10129 presented at the 1981
SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, San
Antonio, TX Ott 5-7.
3. Goftschling, J.: Nitrogen Gas Most Effective Where Natural Fracture Density Is High, Northeast Oil Reporter (Feb.
1983) 57-59.
4. King, S. R.: Liquid C02 for the Stimulation of Low Permeability Reservoirs, paper SPE/DOE 1 I616 presented at the
1983 Symposium on Low Permeability, Denver, March 1416.
5. Harris, P. C.: A Comparison of Mixed Gas Foams with N~
and COq Foam Fracturing Fluids on a Flow Loop Viscometer, SPE Production and Faciiities(Aug. 1995) 197-202.
6. Harris, PC.: Effects of Texture on Rheology of Foam
Fracturing Fluids, SPE Production Engr. (Aug. 1989)
249-257.
7. Harris, P.C. and Reidenbach, V.G.: High-Temperature
Theological Study of Foam Fracturing Fluids, JPT (May
1987) 613-619.

C02 Foams
For comparison, high-quality CO1 water foams were generated
(Figure 8 and Table 6).
COZfoams were less viscous than Nz foams, as predicted by
the FOAMVISC program. Although some decrease was noted
in the n value, the effect was not as strong for COZ foams as for
N2foams. Estimates of yield points are reasonably close to those
determined in previous experiments.
Conclusions
High-viscosity, fine-textured Nz and COZ foams were produced
with 27Qanionic surfactant in water at 95?10gas quality. These
foams were stable under both static and high shear conditions.
The addition of gelling agents to the aqueous phase reduced
the maximum quality for which a fine-textured foam could be
achieved.

267

HIGH-QUALITY

Table I-stabilhv
Figure

Liquid-Phaae

Number

FOAM FRACTURING

FLUIDS

SPE 35600

of Noneauilibrated. Hiah-Qualitv Foams

Composition

Viscosity (cp) at
, ~
s=.,

viscosity

Highest Qllldity
with Fine Texture

95% Nz

90% N2

2?4.Anionic l/vVater

95

80

52

1% Anionic 1/Water

94

58

44

1.570 Anionic lAVater

95

66

46

2% NonionicAVater

78

20

33

Nonionic/Water
3?0

81

20

32

2% Anionic l/Guar

89

64

94

2% Amphoteric/Guar

85

68

75

2% Anionic 2/Guar

75

51

52

2% Anionic 1 + 0,57. Nonionic/Guar

66

80

72

Table 2Nitrogen Foam Quality


and Specific Gravity
at 75F and 1.000 Dsi
Foam Quality (%)

lSpeclfic Grsvity

90
95

10.17
10.12

Table 3-Rheology

Nz Quallty

of Equilibrated Water Foams at 75F and 1,000 psi

Power Lsw Regression

Calculated with FOAMVISC

viscosity (Cp)

Estimated

viscosity (Cp)

st 170 aec

Yield Point

St 170 Ssc-

FOAMVISC
Yield Point

69.3

0.728

0.00187

22.1

0.03

35.0

0.044

75.3

0.538

0.01366

60.3

0.06

48.6

0.068

80.0

0.392

0.05136

108

0.23

68.1

0.107

84.8

0.333

0.08602

134

0.32

96.7

0.168

90.1

0.241

0.2371

230

0.59

138.6

0.264

95.3

0.249

0.2869

290

0,88

200.6

0.413

268

(Cp) at

1,Ooa sac-

PHILLIP C. HARRIS AND STANLEY J. HEATH

SPE 35600

Table 4-Rheology

of Equilibrated 0.24% Guar Foams


at 75F and 1.000
osi
,.
FOAMVISC
viscosity

Vlscoslty
at, ,0 ~=.,

Power Law Regression

st 170 see-f
Nz Quality

I K

Cp

Cp

[118

[68.7

]0.512

10,02644

1103

75.8

0.451

10.05182

148

80.8

0.457

0.06069

178

195

85.0

0,407

0.0939

214

258

1150

90.8

0.363

0.1252

228

350

94.3

10.306

10.1671

1227

1486

Table 5-Rheology
of Equilibrated
at 120F and 1,000 psi

Wacosity
(Cp)

Composition

N2 Quallty

Anionic VIVater

95

0.238

0.2493

238

Anionic l/Guar

95

0.387

0.08668

178

power aw egression
n

Foams

Table 6-Rheology
I

et 170 see-l

of Equilibrated Water COZ Foams at 75F and 1,000 psi


I
I

I Power Law Regression

~
et 170 see-l

I
#

26,3

10.013

10,020

Viscosity (CP)
n

lK

FOAMVISC

Yield Point

I
112.4

I
10,005

0.00052

16.7

0.010

,W,9

0.00145

28.7

0.020

0.760

0.00280

39.2

0.025

0.664

0.00715

61.1

0.07

0.552

0.02082

99.9

0.14

H!H

69.6

11,036

10.00022

75.2

0,942

80.2

0.828

85.1
90.4
95.0

269

117.3

10.117

HIGH-QUALITY

100

90

FOAM FRACTURING

FLUIDS

SPE 35600

1
2.0%

T
3
8.

80
70
1.5%

X
60
z
z
50
.@
~
:
~

1.0%

40
30

E
5 20
LL
10
$

0
0

Figure l-Effect

20

40
60
Nitrogen Quality (%)

of enlonlc eurfactant concentration,

80

100

1.0, 1.5, and 2.0% In water

3.0%

20

40

60

Nitrogen Quality (%)


Figure 2-Effect

of nonlonlc eurfactant

270

80

100

PHILLIP C, HARRIS AND STANLEY J. HEATH

SPE 35600

Water

10
l
0

20

40

60

80

100

Nitrogen Quality (?!)


Figure32.0%anionicsurfactantin water and 0.24% guar

I
0

20

40

60

Nitrogen Quality (%)


Figure 4-Effect

of various aurfactanta

in 0.24%

guar

271

80

100

HIGH-QUALITY

FOAM FRACTURING

SPE 35600

FLUIDS

10.00

1.00

11111

I
0.10

iI

I,

M+r

I
./

/ , ~111
1 1 1 I 11I
1

A ~

1
1

T { \

100

10

I I

I
I

I
\

I 11

10,000

1,000

Shear Rate (see-)


Figure 5-NJwater

foam rhaogram 2.0% anionic aurfaotant in water

95,3Y.

1.6
1.4

90.1 Ye
1.2

84.8%
80.0%
75.3%

0.4

-..
,-- . .

...-.

0.2

.*

___
0.0
0

Figure 6+J2/water

..--

--

.H
,
200

----

----

69.3%

----

..-

----

------

400

600

800

foam rhaogram 2.0% nionic aurfactant in water

1,000

1,200

SPE 35600

PHILLIP C. HARRIS AND STANLEY J, HEATH

.. .. ..
-

1.8

80F

1.6
1.4

120
g

12

=
@ 1.0.
f
z

0.8

a
# 0.6
Ua
0.4
0.2
0.0

200

400

600

800

1,000

1,200

Shear Rate (see-)


Figure7N#vaterfoam rheogram2.0~anionicaurfeciantirrwamr

1.0

95.()%

0.9
0.8
e
%
~

90.40/.

0.7
0.6

85.1 %

@if 0,5
g

80.2?/0

$ 0.4
ar

75.2V0

69,6%

o.~
0.2

./0,0

200

400

600

800

Shear Rate (see)


Figura6-CO, /watarfoam rhaogram2.0%anionicaurfactantin water

273

(
1,000

1
1,200