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\ wety of PetroleumEn~!


SPE 39437

New Criteria for Gravel and Screen Selection for Sand Control
Tiffin, D. L., King, G. E., Larese, R. E., Britt, L. K., Amoco E&P

Cepyright 1998, Society of Petroleum Englnaam, Ino.

good job at preventing reservoir sand invasion with reservoir
This paper was prepar~ for prawntatlon at the 1996 SPE Formation Dawe Control sand that has a “normal” distribution pattern, but questions
Conference held In Lafayetie, LA, 16-19 Feb. 1998.
linger whether ra~s could be increased and costs lowered with
This paper was selwt~ for presenfatlon by an SPE Pragrem committee followlng retiew of
Informetlon wntalnd In an abstrad aubmitfed by the author(a). Content$ of the paper, as screen-only completions, For reservoir sand distributions that
presented, have not bean revl- by the ~laty of Patmlaum Engineers and are subject to are skewed towards fiier sands ancifor where large amounts of
corraotion by the author(s). The material, as prawntd, does not necessarily refld any
posltlon of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, Its officers, or msmbara. P~re pre-sen!d at fines predominate, skins from traditional gravel pack and
SPE meetings are subJact 10 publication review by Editorial committees of tha Soolely of
Petroleum Englneara. Electronic reptiuctlon, dlstrlbutlon, or storage of any pert of this - screen completions can be high and failures have occurred.
for commercialPUPSW Mthout the written consent of the Seclaty of Pdmleum Englnwra la
pmhlbltad. Permlsslon to reproduce In print Is raatrlcted to an ebstraat of not mre than 300
Although gravel packing is a well established coIIlpletion
WrdV illustrations may not be qld. The ebstrwt must mntaln WEPICWUS mechanism, the amount of darnage seen after packing i~ often
acknotiadgment of Mere and by whom the ~ w presented. Write Ubrarlan, SPE, P.O.
Box SS3626,Richardson,TX 75WS-S636, U.S.A., fax 01-972-962-94S5. severe. The cause of this damage takes many forms, but
increasingly, the size and presence of formation fines is
Abstract recognized as one of the major contributors to this damage.*
Guidelines for sand control completion technique and gravel The action of frees as a flow restriction in a gravel packed
size selection are presented. These new criteria are based completion is known, but often ordy considered as an c~.iisting
primarily on reservoir sand size distribution. Emphasis is on condition immediately stir the completion. Often ht. ~~ever,
formations with very high frees content and a wide distribution skins increase over time with production, with migrat r: fines
of grain sizes. Upon failure and/or particle movement, these blamed as a major culprit. Part of this work is based on a
formations can exhibit very high skins and reduced production hypothesis that the gravel pack design may actually be a
capacity with traditional control methods. Guidelines are also contributor to this damage in some cases. The basic hypothesis
discussed for formations with little frees and a very unifom that is presented and defended here is that some formations
grain size distribution. have the “right” sti of fines and sufficient quantities of the
Proposed criteria are based on field experience and fines to seal against the gravel pack, causing severe restrictions
experiments conducted with reservoir cores from different in flow,
sand formations worldwide. Experiments were conducted by The principle fines suspected are sub 325 mesh grains
“packing” different gravels at the effluent end of core plugs (clay sized fines) from the formation. The origin of the frees is
and surging fluids through the plugs and gravel. Cases are still a point of research, but a few causes are understood about
presented where traditional methods would lead to an overly what turns these frees loose in the formation. When these frees
restrictive gravel pack and advantages are obtained with use of are present in the right size or in large quantities, or when the
larger gravel. formations are poorly sorted (a very wide size range between
minimum and maximum grain size), the result is often il~vasion
Introduction by the finest particles into the pores, reducing permeat,; lity in
This work attempts to provide easily determined guidelines to the critical near-wellbore area.
help address the question of “What is the optimal sand control Background from published literature in this area is
technique for a weak or unconsolidated sand?” The guidelines extensive, but most of the data from field operations has
are based solely on reservoir sand size. No attempt is made to focused on near well damage caused by screen damage from
determine when or if a reservoir will fail. The guidelines here drilling and completion fluids, perforation flow dynanli~s, gel
are for the case where the reservoir will fail during its damage from packing or fluid loss control fluids or ~!~t-of-
producing life and some type of sand control will be needed. specification gravel. Related work to this study appe:l! to be
Guidelines are based on operating experience and simple lab limited to a few authors that recognize some componeii, of the
testing. Emphasis is on formations containing large amounts contribution to flow restriction of fies along the gravel pack
of fines, since these fines can contribute to very high skins and interface or the screen.1-5
reduced production capacity with haditional control methods.
Current gravel pack completion designs generally do a

2 D. L. Tiffin, G. E. King SPE 39437

Current Gravel Pack Design Methods and Problem based on sim range and quantity, and
Identification 2. Use a completion mechanism that will either pass the frees
Saucier and others solidified gravel pack selection criteria with or confine them so far away from the wellbore that the
several studies in the 1960’s and 70’s that led to the often conductivity damage they cause has a minimum effect on
applied gravel sizing criteria based on 6 times the 50% particle production.
size~s The resultant plot, Figure 1, is a typical design aid used 3. Additionally, when the fines are absent or the formation is
in most current gravel sizing studies. Reference 9 offers a good well sorted, conventional designs based solely on a 5070
review of gravel sizing criteria, number may be too restrictive, creating conditions that
The use of this criteria has proven effective for stopping lead to high pressure drop and rate limiting turbulence.
sand in most formations; however, there have been a number When large quantities of fme mesh grains are present, the
of papers in the 1990’s investigating productivity impairment fines, combined with medium and a few larger formation
to sand control completions in general and gravel packed grains create a plugging po~ntial likened to bridging
completions in particular.1&12In looking at these papers, the technology. What is needed is a new selection criteria for
average skin damage values to gravel packed completions are completions that recognizes both the damaging potential when
ranging from a low of around +10 to over +50 even on fme mesh particles are present and when large numbers of the
completions that do not report obvious completions based fme particles create significant plugging potential. It is
problems. Recently published data has shown that the average important to remember that both a particular fine particle size
skin calculated for frac-packed completions ranges from a skin and a sufficient amount of fines are necessary. What is
of -2 to 5.13-1s proposed here is a conditional method of gravel and screen
Although the gravel packing carrier fluids have been selection that is still based upon the 50% distribution, but takes
studied closely, few investigators have looked in detail at the into account the sorting and sub 325 mesh fines content of the
sizing of the gravel relative to the formation for a large variety formation, to help determine the relationship of the “fit” of the
of formation samples. The basis of this paper is not to try to gravel to the formation sand.
disprove the Saucier criteria. It,is rather, as an added piece of
design information, and should be useful in more intelligently Test Accuracy and Measurement Problems
selecting candidates for various sand control completions. In many cases, poor field coring or sampling procedures or
An evaluation of gravel pack failures identified several poor test procedures will loosen frees. Because the frees are
cases that support a change in the way gravel and screens are easily attracted to charged surfaces, suspended in liquids or
sized. The data is interesting, and becoming more conclusive, blown away in air from equipment cooling fans, a significant
that the size, type and quantity of “free” particles (sub 325 amount can be lost under normal processes. Additionallti’,most
mesh = 0.0017” - 44 microns) may play a starring role in mechanical screening tests only test to 325 mesh, measuring
plugging both gravel packs and screens. The sub 325 mesh is smaller sizes to get the full range must be measured by laser or
selected here, because the average pore size of the 40/60 mesh other methods.
gravel (smallest common gravel pack gravel) is about 45 Note that sand sim analyses are reported in weight percent.
microns. This size and smaller particles can enter the pores Although only a few weight percent of sub 325 frees sounds
and can bridge inside the pack, Additionally, large masses of harmless, converting this weight percent to number of particles
particles in this size range can plug the formatiotigravel pack can be quite alarming.
interface, causing significant darnage skins. The created Variation within the formation has long been recognized as
pressure drop at the interface is also a catalyst for scale a severe problem in design of gravel “containment” systems,
formatiow a feat that has been documented on small grained whether they are conventional gravel packs, high rate packs, or
formations. frac packs. Handling variation of sand sizing and sorting in the
In practical engineering investigations of screen failures in formation can take several forms. One historical approach was
several parts of the world (both vertical and horizontal wells), to design for the worst (smallest grain) zone. This approach
unpublished accounts of the completion behavior immediately may produce a “worst case” completion in some cases as
before the screen failed showed several cases where the reflected by near well skin and turbulence. Splitting the pay up
pressure inside the screen fell sharply while the reservoir with different completions methods has been done, but is not
pressure remained the same (or built up?). One explanation for popular, and not perforating zones of smallest sand (since the
this behavior is that the screens, and in some cases the gravel permeability is lowest there anyway) has appeal. The best way
packs, were plugging with fines, becoming, in effect, blank to handle variation is arguable, but identifying zones with the
pipe sections; thus the failures may have been more related to problem is key.
hydraulic collapses than mechanical crush events. This same
occurrence may take place in vertical wells. Mobility of Fines.
One key consideration needing to be considered is the mobility
The proposed solution is to: of fme particles, When fme particles are present, the quantity
1. Identify these formations by a particle sorting criteria, of the fines available to move and form a seal is critical. The

SPE 39437 New Criteriafor Gravel and Screen Selaetionfor Sand Control 3

sub 325 mesh value may be misleading, especially if the fies migration. That very important piece of information is still to
are bound in aggregates and are not free on an individual basis. be addressed by a sand strength model. The “D” designations
Careful geological analysis and testing should be undertaken to in the table refer to the sieve size distributions (cumulative%).
make this important determination. Certainly, if the formation The D40/D90 ratio, for example, is the sieve opening (in
fails due to changes to the in-situ forces keeping a weak inches, mm or microns) above which ~~o of the sand is
formation consolidated, individual fines would be available to retained, divided by the sieve opening (same measurement)
plug flow paths and reduce flow capacity. For a typical above which 9090 of the sand is retained. An example from a
formation, fines greater than 5% or so would provide a moderate size, well sorted formation yields a D40 of 0.0098”
sufficient quantity to bridge and seal against the medium and (60 mesh), divided by a D90 of 0.0035” (170 mesh) to give a
coarse particles at the interface of the gravel pack. D40/D90 of 2.8. A more poorly sorted example would be a
Fines can be loosened by other mechanisms short of D40 of 0.017” (40 mesh) end a D90 of 0.0017” (325 mesh),
formation failure and these factors need to be considered as which yields a D40/D90 of 10.
well. Particle movement in the formation can be triggered by Two formations may have similar sortings but very differ-
physical force (drag forces on the particle from flowing fluids), ent sizing. A formation with a D40/D90 of 0.02’’/0.0049” -5,
by chemical repulsion/attraction, by breaking the binding force has approximately the same sorting as a formation with a
to the formation host grain and by a chemical upset where the D40/D90 of 0.0049’’/0.001” -5, but the D50% of the fwst
.~articles are held in suspension, formation is about 0.017” (40 mesh) and the D50% of the
Common causes of particle movement are second formation is about 0.0041” (140 mesh). At fust, tie
1. High shear force on the solids by flowing liquids, difference in sizing in these two formations with essentially the
especially at high flow rates and with high viscosity fluids. same sorting may seem to invalidate the ratio sorting
2. acids - pH shift is a chemical upset, as is the 70,000+ ppm parameter, but the real considerations that we are trying to
equivalent chloride ion strength - often flocculates describe are the ability of the formation to form blockages, like
polymers, silica and some dispersed particulate such as the bridging and fluid loss control arguments from the
minor effect on most sands however. Appendix. The sorting measurement, therefore is a
::=;:~ - the solvents can disperse frees by
3. measurement of the range of coarser to freer particles. The
removing the liquid surrounding the grain that may be larger the ratio, the larger the range between the coarse and
binding the fines to the host grain. Limited by contact. fme particles and the more likely the formation sand grains are
4. change in salinity of fluids invading formation - most to form bridges and lower the permeability. The smaller the
likely form of damage mechanism from Smectites and ratio, the more permeability is preserved. For example, gravel
dispersible clays. Often liberates particles in the 1 to 5 is sized in tight ranges, like 1220 mesh, with a D40D90 of
micron size. 0.056’’/0.039 -1.4 20/40 mesh, where the D40/D90 ratio is
5. Solvents that reduce viscosity of a trapped liquid layer about 0.028/0.019 - 1.5; or 40/60 mesh, with a D40/~90 of
that may be holding frees. 0.014/0.00.01 1-1.3. The sizing and the permeability of these
6, Ad, by far, the most likely problem, is the dissagregation gravels vary widely, but permeability is preserved with the
of the matrix of the formation by change in water consistent pore sizes where plugging frees are absent (hence
saturation or overburden increase. the low sorting ratios).
There are few practical methods of preventing frees from Formations with low sorting values should be completed in
flowing in a producing formation where fines are naturally or a different manner from formations with high sorting values,
easily liberated: the act of fluids production can be a strong where frees will plug off on screens or secondary (larger
frees mover. Only by bridging the fines, keeping the formation sand grains) matrixes over the scree,~... For
drawdown low (limiting production), or spreading the D40/D90 sorting values of 1 to 3, consider bare screen
drawdown out (improved reservoir contact by fracturing, open completions, particularly if the permeability of the formation
hole gravel packs, high rate water packing, horizontal wells, sand is high enough (1 to 2 darcies or higher) to prevent
etc.), can the fines be stopped. Bridging the fines is usually creation of significant pressure drops through sand packed
very flow restrictive, Where fines ordy flow for short periods perforations.
early in the life of the well, rate limiting maybe effective, But, The actual level of tie sorting value, where problems begin
where frees are part of the prtiucing challenge over the life of to show, is not exacdy known, but rough ranges are beginning
the well, handling by preventing their flow or passing them to emerge, along with the knowledge that the screen filtration
through the completion appears to be the best option. level itself is important in the selection of a maximum level of
Sand Sorting Considerations the ratio. It is important to note that the sorting minimum or
The following proposed sorting ratios and general data in maximum level may also change with the type of sorting
Table 1 can be obtained from a simple sieve analysis. The deftition. The D40/D90 has been found to be useful for
advantage of the sieve analysis is that it can run easily on figuring out whether bare screen completions with woven
almost any sample regardless of the condition. These ratios mesh screens will work, The level of the D40/D90 from Alex
and other data do not say anything about the potential fcr frees Procyk at Pall for the 80 micron absolute Stratop& screen is a

4 D. L. Tlfin, G. E. King SPE 39437

maximum of 6, while the 200 micron version of the screen has increased because frees are turned loose and plug pore throats.
a maximum D40/D90 of 8.20 The coarser screens can pass Since other effects (like geometry) can reduce permeability
more of the particles without plugging, hence the higher limit with rate, the testing sequence is repeated at decreasing rates
on the ratio for candidates. Levels of D40/D90 of 5 (from to see if the curves overlay. If permeability is decreased due
empirical data) and above are warning signs of fines size that to fines mobilization, then the permeability will not recover as
could plug the screen. rate is decreased and the two curves diverge.
Other sorting methods mentioned in Table 1 have utility as The second test is conducted in the same core holder,
well. The D 10/D95 criteria was selected based on the ability to however flow rates and stresses are much higher. In this case
see distinct variation between the size and sorting ranges of the core is mounted and loaded similarly; however 1/2 to 1
formation sands. From the section on bridging agent inch of gravel is “packed” into the core holder on the core exit
performance, the ugly correlation between a wide particle size end. Brine is “surged” through the core at 50 psi increments
range and the potential to form a permeability-limiting bridge until flow is restricted and/or formation sand is produced
is evident, once again. The selection of the D 10 level is a bit through the core and gravel. Surging was simula~d by
arbitrary, but it is a recognition of the importance of larger pressuring the core to the desired pressure and rapidly
particles in building a second matrix over the gravel. This depressuring through the exit end. Between surging,
“coarse end” of the formation sand size spectrum is important, permeability was measured at a low injection rate as in the
although less so than the fines. The addition of coarse sand previously described testing, In addition to the permeability
particles over the gravel surface does not typically decline, damage to the gravel pack was determined by
significantly reduce the system permeability, as proved by the collecting and identifying sand produced and collected in a
Darcy beds-in-series relationship. The layer would only downstream filter and by making a thin section along the
become important if the permeability of the layer was sand/gravel interface. As discussed below, some of these thin
substantially lower than the gravel (<<10% of gravel sections were very useful in demonstrating the type of damage
permeability) or if the coarse sand layer was thick. which can occur.
The biggest impact on productivity of a gravel pack is a
three way contrast between the permeabilities ofi the gravel, Laboratory Flow Tests
the formation and the interface layer between the formation
and the gravel. From the beds-in-series relationship, the major Case A. Representative sand size distribution for the
impact is presewing the permeability of the otherwise thin Formation A cores used in this testing is presented in Figure 1
interface layer. The factor that can most dominate on this layer while the sorting criteria are in Rgure 2. Note the even
is the presence of fines that can fill the pores of the larger distribution with a little over 10% frees (-325 mesh). D50 is
grains and reduce’ permeability sharply. The D1OD95 ratio .08 mm. As expected, -40/+70 gravel does a good containing
increases sharply with a finer size of sand at the D95 position. the sand after surging brine at up to 700 psi. A thin section cut
For this reason, it is a good indicator of potential problems along the -40/+70 gravel/sand interface clearly shows a sharp
with ultra wide range of particle size, one that can predict delineation between the sand and gravel with no invasion in
problems with a particle size range that is too wide. For the Figure 3a -20/+40 gravel allowed sand to itilltrate into and
DIO/D95 ratio, levels above 10 are considered high, through the gravel pack with only 50 psi surge pressure as
shown in Figure 3b. Figure 3C demonstrates advantages of
Core Test Procedures synthetic gravel. In this case, -20/+40 synthetic gravel was
Two types of lab tests were conducted 1) to determine the used. As can be seen, little invasion of the gravel by the sand
mobility of frees under minimal flow stress; and 2) to has occurred. Generally only frees were produced above 300
dete~e the effectiveness of different gravel packs with psi surges with small amounts of sand between 600 and 900
reservoir sand, psi surging.
The fwst test is conducted with a 1 to 1.5 inch diameter Although the D40/D90 ratio indicates that the formation
reservoir core plug, about 2 inches long, The core plug is may be a candidate for a bare screen completion, Iab{!ratory
loaded into a Hassler type sleeve core holder and stressed to a tests with the fme sand on a woven screen showed dechnes in
net confiig pressure approximating reservoir conditions. screen permeability. In a practical view, there were simply too
Pressure is applied both radially and axially. Fluids are many frees and too much spread between minimum and
produced through a filter which can be examined later. A base maximum sand size values.
permeability is established at a low rate (l-2 cc/rein) with a This is an example of a case where a combination of larger
non-damaging brine at room temperature, Permeability gravel and a frees-passing screen might be applicable.
measurements are then obtained at higher rates (up to 10 DIO/D95C20, D@/D90e5 and sub 325mesh<10%. The actual
cc/rein) until a plot of permeability as a function of rate is sub-325 mesh is slightly greater than the proposed 107o
determined. For the permeability range studied here, pressure threshold, but some of the frees in this sample may be
drops accross the cores were less than 15 psi. If mobile frees agglomerated or immobile.
are present, permeability typically decreases as rate is

SPE 3%37 New Criteriafor Gravel and Screen Seleetionfor Sand Control 5

for over 25% of the total porosity. The lack of Iithification by

Case B. The Case B sand is characterized by silt-size siderite cementatioticompaction has permitted lateral
and pyrite crystals approximately 15-20 microns in diameter. rotatiotigrinding, resulting in grain breakage. Detached slivers
These crystals are loosely disseminated as cement throughout of broken quartz grains possess the potential for realignment
intergranular pore spaces. into pore throat intervals thus restricting reservoir flow.
Core flood results cotilrm the mobility of the pyrite and Flow tests at low rates shown in Figure 9 clearly indicate
siderite in this sand. Results are presented for one sample in that frees are not migratig at normal reservoir rates and
Figure 4. Testing was conducted as described earlier by pressure drops. Permeability is constant at increasing and
measuring permeability at increasing flow rates and then decreasing rates.
decreasing flow rates using a non-damaging fluid (brine in this Formation sand size varies widely in the 25 Sand as shown
case). As shown in Figures Sa and b, fines were mobilized in Figure 10. The 50% sand size varies from .07 to 2 mm
with a minimal amount of flow. The loosely packed crystals with sand size generally decreasing with increasing depth.
move within pores and probably brushpile against pore throat Note also tie long “tails” on these curves as particle size
apertures, resulting in permeability decrease. decreases. (This presents some problems for selecting a gravel
Sand size distribution and sorting parameters for this sand pack size for the entire interval.) Of particular interest are the
are presented in Figures S and 6, The 50% sand size is about sorting factors presented in F]gure 11. This poor sorting was
0.09 mm, This sand is just slightly too fine to meet Saucier’s evident from the tails on the sand size figures, but really stands
criteria for -20/+40 gravel, so -30/+50 gravel if available, or out when comparing these numbers to the previous samples.
more commonly -40/+60 gravel would be the recommended DIO/D95 is ~ically between 30 and 40, D40/D90 is over 10
conservative choice. Sorting factors in Figure 7 depict poorer and sub-325 frees varies to one sample over 50% by weight.
sorting than Case A sand for all parameters, especially the sub- This sand clearly contains a large quantity of frees and
325 mesh fines which is over 20% in one of these samples. presents a challenging completion problem. Note also how
Surge tests through gravel packs were conducted for this sorting and the amount of frees gets worse with depth.
sand as well. Again thin sections were cut across the As with the previous samples, surging was also carried out
grave~sand interface and particles were collected on the using various gravel packs at the core exit. Samples chosen for
downstream filter to detefine what passed through the gravel. this testing were all from the upper part of the Case C Sand
Surges as high as 1000 psi were applied across the cores. As where average grain size was larger (0.2 mm) and sorting
expected the -40/+70 mesh gravel did an excellent job of parameters were better. Saucier would predict -20/+40 gravel
stopping sand migration as shown in Figure 7a. Migration of to be adequate for this sample. Despite using cores with the
sand into the gravel pack was minimal and very little sand was better sand, this formation easily defeated both -20/+40 gravel
collected on the downstream filter. Figure 7b depicts results packs as shown in Figures 12a and b. There is no sharp
with natural -20/+40 mesh gravel. Reservoir sand clearly bound~ between the gravel and sand as with earlier samples
invaded into and through the gravel pack. Results with the and large amounts of formation sand (mostly fractured quartz)
synthetic -20/+40 mesh gravel are presented in Figure 7c. was collected on the downstream filter paper. Advanhges of
Note the sharp interface between the sand and gravel and lack the synthetic -20/+40 gravel compared to the natural gravel
of significant amount of reservoir sand in the gravel pack. were slight.
Sand and fines that entered the gravel pack were produced Results using -40/+70 gravel in this case were fascinating.
through the pack and onto the downstream filter paper as As presented in Figure 1%, the smaller gravel does a good job
shown. There was more residue on the filter paper with this at limiting reservoir sand from passing through the gravel
gravel than either of the other two cases. In addition to pack, but at the expense of severe “brushpiling” of frees at the
smaller sand grains, size and texture of additional material on sand/gravel interface. This brushpiling can severely limit
the filter paper are consistent with siderite or pyrite. ~rmeability and production rate.
It is apparent in this case that if larger gravel is chosen, This formation would appear to present a completion
higher permeability and flow rates would be expected with the dilemma. If large gravel is chosen to maximize rates and allow
synthetic gravel, but care must be exercised in selecting a fines to be produced, the large amount and nature of the frees
screen fiat allows the fines to pass into the wellbore without could cause problems with plugging and cutting through the
plugging. screen. If freer gravel is chosen, rates could be severely
impacted with brushpiling of frees at the gravel/sand interface.
Case C. Case C sand differs significantly from the Case B One possible solution to this dilemma would be a completion
sand even though both are from the same geographical area. in which one attempts to minimize flow surging by maximizing
Thin sections of the Case C sand (Figure 8) clearly show the area between the reservoir and wellbore. There is a critical
mostly quartz and feldspar with no siderite, pyrite or similar need to enlarge the wellbore (move the gravel/formation sand
fme material. Of special significance for this sample however interface away form the wellbore). This can be accomplished
is the predominance of fractured quartz grains. Fracture by fracturing, underrearning, horizontal or multilateral well
porosity is 8 volume percent of the entire sample, accounting technology or large volume prepacking to minimize the

6 D. L. Tiffin, G. E. King SPE 39437

consequences to flow of severe permeability damage at the significant fines and those with too many frees.
Proposed Sorting Criteria.’i’he sorting criteria presenkd in
Benefits of Larger Gravel this paper suggest that the following applications data should
The accepted basis for gravel sizing in gravel packing design work (with other factors as noted). When all values are under
focuses in on preventing invasion into the matrix created by the thresholds, the risk of damage is low where the formation
the gravel. In the 1970’s, Chevron showed that too large a sand is well described by the examined samples. These ratio
gravel, specifically tiose designs based on a bridging concept, and comparison thresholds are
would be invaded by formation sand and the gravel 1. (D10~95c10, D40/D90c3, sub 325 meshc2%) the
permeability would be sharply lowered.zl The problem was lowest sorting values with low frees content may be bare
created by filling of the pore spaces between the gravel with screen completion candidates. (Need >1 Darcy formation
frees from the formation. Since that work, several authors have permeability for cased and perforated completion, with
proposed that certain formations could use larger gravels and possible use of prepacked screens).
proved the point by gravel packing with 7x through 9x sized 2. (D IO/D95e10, D40/D90c5, sub 325 mesh<5%) low to
gravels. The formations that respond well to this approach are medium sorting ranges, or with frees just out of range may
clearly in the minority. A quick study of their character shows best be served by bare screen completions with new
that they are the larger grained, more well sorted sands, technology, woven mesh screens. (Need >1 Darcy
typically with little or no fines.22’23 formation permeability for cased and perforated
When the sorting methods presented here indicate a well completion).
sorted formation that requires gravel packing, larger, rounder, 3. (DIO/D95<20, D40/D90c5, sub 325 meshe5%) medium
gravel, with a tighter size range maybe of value in improving ratio ranges may be served by larger gravel (7x or 8x
flow capacity through lowering pressure drop and improving 50%), placed in high rate water pack, particularly if the
conductivity. Before taking on the issue of gravel sizing in the formation sand size is consistent over the zone (no
special (well sorted) formations, it may be of use to consider laminations and minimum streaks).
ways of improving both interface control and gravel 4. (DIO/D95e20, D40/D90c5, sub 325 meshclO%) medium
permeability. The permeability of the gravel is controlled by ratio ranges with too many fines may use a combination of
the size of the pores that a stressed gravel pack presents to the larger gravel and a fries-passing screen.
formation and maintains between the formation and the screen. 5. (DIO/D95>20, D40/D90>5, sub 325 mesh>lO%) the
Long known methods of improving gravel permeability are highest ratios, particularly those coupled with large
1. Using a rounder gravel (presents a more constant pore size amounts of frees signal a critical need for eniuging the
and higher permeability) wellbore (move the grave~formation sand interface away
2. Using a gravel that contains less initial out-of-range from the wellbore), through fractig, horizontal or
particles, multi-lateral well technology underrearning, or large
3. Using a gravel that produces less fines during handling volume prepacking to minimize severe permeability
and placement (stronger) damage at the grave~sand interface due to flow.
4. Using a gravel with a narrower size range.
The rounder gravel offers sharply higher permeability and Conclusions
less frees created in the gravel handling and placement steps. 1. Sorting criteria and resultant completion techniques
The synthetic gravels offer much rounder profiles and greater proposed here should be useful in selection of gravel and
strengths for only a small increase in cost over regular gravels. screen to optimize flow rates in a sand control completion.
Resieving gravel, especially synthetic gravels, is an 2. Synthetic gravel may offer advantages over natural gravel
amazingly cheap method of obtaining gravel with more in optimizing production rates and minimizing sand
consistent pore size~ an automatic way of achieving more invasion,
permeability and less invasion. There is nothing magic about
the presently available gravel sizes of -20+40 mesh, -30+50 References
mesh, etc. These mesh sizes were selected, at least in part, 1. Bigno, Y., M. B. Oyeneyin,md J, M. Peden, “investigationof
because the naturally occurring gravels could be screened into Pore-BlockingMechanismin Gravel Packs in the Management
commercially saleable quantities in these ranges and tie ranges and Control of Fines Migration”,SPE 27342, presentedat SPE
offered what was considered good permeability. Selecting new Int’1FormationDamageControl,Lafayette,La, Feb 7-10, 1994.
ranges of say; -20+25 mesh or -30+35 mesh may seem 2. Oyeneyin, M. B., J. M. Peden, A. Hosseini, G. Ren, and Y.
Bigno, “OptimumGravel Sizing for Effective Sand Control”,
unusual, but may offer tremendous advantages in either the
SPE 24801, presented at the 67th Annual Tech Conf. and
case of abundant fines or low fines content. Cost is minimal in Exhibitionof SPE, WashingtonD.C., Ott 4-7, 1992.
comparison to benefits, especially in synthetic gravels. 3. Markestad,P. and O. Christie,“Selectionof Screen Slot Width
There are really two types of formations that may benefit to Prevent Plugging and Sand Production,” SPE 31087,
from gravel sizes larger than the standard 6x those without presented at SPE Int’1Formation Damage Control, Lafayette,

.. .—

SPE 354,37 New Criteriafor Gravel and Screen Selectionfor Sand Control 7

La, Feb 14-15,1996. 19. Muecke,T. W., “FormationFines and Factors ControllingTheir
4. Jennings,A. R. Jr., “LaboratoryStudies of Fines Movementin Movementin PorousMedia,”JPT, (Feb 1979), 144-150.
Gravel Packs,” presented at the Annual Tech Conf. and 20, Procyk,Alex,Pall Well Screens,PrivateCommunication
Exhibitionof SPE, Denver,CO, Ott 6-9, 1996. 21. Shyrock, S. G.: “Gravel-Packing Studies in a Full-Scale
5. Reijnen,P. H. F., Trampert,R. A., and Samuel,A. J.: “Plugging DeviatedModelWellbore:’JPT, (March 1983),pp 603-609.
Potential of Gravel Carrier Fluids, Contaminatedby Satellite 22, Leone, J. A., M. L. Mana, and J. B. Parrnley, “Gravel-Sizing
Particles Originating from Gravels: paper SPE 36952, Criteria for Sand Control and Productivity Optimization,”,
presentedat the 1996SPE EuropeanPetroleumConferencehalo SPE 2W29, presented at the 60th CaliforniaRegional Meeting
in MilanItaly, Oct. 22-24,1996. of the SPE, Ventura,CA, April 4-6, 1990.
6. Coberly, C. J.: “Selection of Screen Openings for 23. Chan, A. F. and J. P. Parmley, “Gravel Sizing Criteria for Sand
UnconsolidatedSands:’ API Drill. &Prod. Practice(1937) Control and Productivity Optimization: Part II - Evaluation of
7. Saucier,R. J.: “SuccessfulSand Control Design for High Rate the Long-Termed Stability;, SPE 23767, presented at SPE Int’1
Oil and WaterWells,”JPT, Vol. 21, 1193, 1969 Formation Damage Control, Lafayette, La, Feb 26-27, 1992.
8. Penberthy,W. L., and B. J. Cope “Design and Productivityof
Gravel-PackedCompletions:’JPT, Vol. 32, 1679,1980.
9. Bouhroum,A., and-F. Civan, “A Critical Review of Existing Table 1: Formation Sand Sorting Values Considered in
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Petroleum Conference of the S. Saskatchewan Section, The
Soting or Comparison Proposed Purpose
PetroleumSot. of CIM,ReginaOct. 18-20,1993.
100 Shucart,J. K,, and A. F. Rustandaja,“GravelPacking in High- D50 Standard Saucier Criteria
Rate Oil Completions:’ SPE 22978, presented at SPE Asia- D40/D90 Screen Damage Ratio from Pall
Pacific Conferenceheld in Perth, WesternAustralia,Nov. 47, Dlo/D95 Size range betvveen common
1991. min and max particle sizes
11. Burton, R. C., W. M. MacKinlay,R. M. Hedge, and W. R. sub 325 mesh Quantity of sub 44 micron
Lzndrum, “Evaluations Completion Damage in High Rate,
Gravel Packed Wells:’, SPE 31091, presented at SPE Jnt’1
FormationDamageControl,Lafayette,La, Feb 14-15,1996.
12. Beng-SweeChuah, Hasumi,A. R., Samsudin,N., and Matzain,
A.: “Formation Darnage in Gravel Packed and Non-Gravel
Packed Completions A Comprehensive Case Study,” Paper
SPE 27360, presented at the Formation Damage Control
Symposiumin Lafayette,buisiana, February7-10,1994.
13. Fletcher, P. A., Montgomery, C. T., Ramos, G. G.,
Guillory,R. J., and Francis, M. J.: “optimizing Hydraulic
Fracture Length to Prevent Formation Failure in Oil and Gas
Wells,” paper SPE 27899, presented at the SPE Western
RegionalMeetingheld in Long Beach,CA.,Mmh 23-25,1994
14. Wong, G. K., R. R. Fors, J. S. Casassa, R. H. Hite, and
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in the Gulf of Mexico”, SPE 26563, presented at the 68th
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0.1 0.01
Slew Opening, mm

Figure 1. Case A distribution.




0- 1 1 I


Figure 2. Sorting factor Case A.

.... .— ..—-. --. ——. .—

SPE 3W37 New Criteriafor Gravel and Screen Selation for Sand Control 9

Flgulre rks well.






o 2 4 6 6 10 12
rate (tiMn)

Figure 4. Caee B rate tests demonstrating moblllty of fines under minimal flow.

. ..

10 D. L. Tiffin, G. E. King SPE 39437

+ :, :,,‘u
+ : :*

+ :a


* ~

,, u
u 130a9.3

; 13117.6

.ifi *+

1 0.1 0.01

Siwe Opening, mm

Figure 5. Partlcla siza distribution, Caae B

13c195.4 13a39,5 13109.5 13117.5

Ilepth, fi

Figure 6. Sorting factor comparleon, Caaa B


New Criteria for Gravel and Screen Seleotionfor Sand Control 11

SPE 39437

Figure 7. Thin seotlons across graveUaand Interface for 3 different gravals and Case B eend.

12 D. L. Tlffin, G. E. King SPE 39437

Figure 8. Photomicrographs illustrating potential for “grairr/fines” movement end mlgratlon Ine elaoted
sandstone core plugs subjeoted to $tepleurge flow teeta.




~ 300



0,0 2.0 4.0 6.0 8.0 10.0 12.0
rate (mL/min)

Figure 9. Case C fines mobility demonatratlng that no fines move under mlnlmel flow atreeeea.

—.. .. .. .—
..—. ——..—
.. .. ..—

SPE 3%37 New Criteriafor Gravel and Screen Selection for Sand Control 13

+ 12790.3
u 12m5.5
x 12~4.5
E 12810.5
+ 12s20.5
Q 12S24.5
w 12%30.5
o 12S34.5
I I D 12838.5
F* a w o
v w
m* .Omo
1 0.1 0.01 o,mi
SiaW Opening, i n~

Figure 10. Formation aand distribution, Case C.

b 01
N m

Formation fines sorting study, Case C.

— ..-

14 D. L. Tiffin, G. E. King SPE 39437

12(c) Caaa C sand with -40/+70 gravel

Figure 12. Thin saotlons acroaa gravel/sand Intetiace for 3 different gravels and Caae C send.