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SPE 84263

Optimization of Frac/Pack Completions Based on Field Experience

R.H. Morales, Schlumberger; J. Profinet, J. Piedras, TOTAL E&P, USA Inc.; B. Gadiyar, S. Harris, Schlumberger

Copyright 2003, Society of Petroleum Engineers Inc.

When these steps are meticulously followed, fracture
This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE Annual Technical Conference and performances with lower skins can be obtained as
Exhibition held in Denver, Colorado, U.S.A., 5 – 8 October 2003.
demonstrated in the case history.
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of
information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as
presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to Introduction
correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any
position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Papers presented at After more than one decade, the frac-packing technology has
SPE meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees of the Society of
Petroleum Engineers. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper
gradually established as one of the most widely used
for commercial purposes without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is completion techniques for high permeability formations.1-3 In
prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300
words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous many fronts it is becoming a mature industry where, across the
acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper was presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O.
Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836, U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435.
borders, service companies have comparable state of the art
vessels, downhole tools, equipment, and fluids technology;
and in other fronts, such as, intelligent completions, multiple
Abstract zone production diagnosis, and damage repair, technology is
As the frac/pack technology continues to evolve, there are a continuously improving. Even with all these advancements,
number of topics that need more understanding and there is still room for improvements to achieve maximum well
improvement. Some of these are: The estimation of correct potential. For example, average production skins are higher
closure pressure, which in turn leads to evaluation of the than desired (Figure 1). Like in the sports arena, excellence
correct fluid efficiency, and ultimately leads to the design of comes through refining and perfecting the basic game
the slurry schedule. In addition, a proper fluid selection principles; the core of this paper is to refine the use of existing
criterion is critical to the placement of highly conductive technology with the aim of optimizing production.
propped fracture wings via tip screenout.
With this goal in mind, we present principles for refining the
This paper describes the long strides that have been taken to estimation of closure pressures, fluid efficiency, and
address these areas. Special attention is given to skin data perforation clean up. We also summarized some lessons
from build-up tests showing skin increasing with increase in learned that could prevent costly interventions.
kh. In essence the paper shows effective ways to lower the
skin, and consequently increase production. This goal is In-situ stresses
accomplished by adjusting the design of the frac/pack slurry The estimation of the correct in-situ stress is important
schedule to observation from field data and to numerical because it leads to the correct evaluation of other parameters
modeling of the fracturing process, and also, by considering that are critical to the design of the slurry schedule for a tip-
the issues stated above. As a consequence, the paper shows screenout (TSO) treatment and prediction of fracture
that important steps to minimize the skin are to: geometry. An inflection point on the pressure decline plot of a
calibration test is a common method used to measure in-situ
• Design the fracturing fluids to suit the character of stress. However, in many cases the pressure decline plot
the fractures in soft formations where cooldown, shows inflection points not related to in-situ stresses but to
fluid velocities, and fluid exposure time other mechanisms like change in flow regime or gas kicks that
are important. could lead to the wrong estimate. In this section, we present
• Use equilibrium method to fine-tune the closure application of a new method that facilitates the closure pick,
pressure (and fluid efficiency) evaluation. known as the Equilibrium Step Rate Test (ESR). In addition,
• Clean and pack the perforations not aligned with we present a field-derived correlation for deepwater wells that
the fracture. provides a reliable way to estimate in-situ stress.
• Use diversion techniques to pack the
entire reservoir. Equilibrium Step Rate Test. This test is a modification of
• Evaluate the packing efficiency with bottomhole the equilibrium test presented in SPE paper 78173.4 The
gauge data (temperature and pressure) and/or objective is the same – to facilitate the closure pick by
radioactive tracers. decreasing the fracture area to an equilibrium area in which
the injection rate equals the leakoff rate. That area is attained
when the treating pressures become stable after the initial rate
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has been decreased to the propagation rate. In the original in the Gulf of Mexico is borate crosslinked guar. This is a
paper the propagation rate is assumed to be a fraction (0.2) of non-Newtonian fluid that exhibits shear-thinning behavior.
the initial injection rate, while the equilibrium step-rate-test
allows estimating the actual propagation rate on the fly whilst During treatment execution, the temperature in the wellbore
stepping up the rate. and fracture will cool down significantly due to leak-off. The
cool down temperature increases the fluid apparent viscosity.
The following example shows better depiction of closure Simultaneously, as the fracture propagates, the fluid
pressure in the plot of the square root of time vs. pressure continuously experiences change in shear rate and
decline of an ESR compared to that of a calibration test. In consequently the apparent viscosity changes too. At the
fact, the first inflection point (Point A) in the ESR decline plot initiation of the fracture, the shear rate could be above 100 sec-
(Figure 2) corresponds to the closure pressure. That closure but after the TSO event, it could drastically decrease by
(Point B) can scarcely be seen in the pressure decline plot of orders of magnitude. These changes could hinder TSO as
the calibration treatment (Figure 3). Linear gel was used for typically observed with higher than required polymer loading.
ESR, whereas crosslinked fluid was pumped during the Thus the fluid selection (polymer loading) should be based
calibration test. Using an incorrect closure pressure from the on cool down temperature and shear rate. 5
calibration treatment would have resulted in an incorrect fluid
efficiency. This is just one example of scores of tests in which Production contribution of perforations
the ESR has helped correctly define the closure. The Previous modeling6 indicates that the production from
evaluation of the fracturing fluid efficiency (which is a direct perforations not aligned with the fracture plane can be
function of the closure pressure) from the subsequent significant in high permeability reservoirs (Figure 6). This
calibration treatment becomes more reliable. figure demonstrates two limiting cases – low perforation
density (4 spf) and infinite perforation density (open hole)
Figure 4 shows plot of the ESR rates and pressures. The having a skin of zero. This phenomenon could explain why
figure shows that the propagation rate is estimated from the Gulf of Mexico data shows that skin increases for high
inflection point in the stepping up pressure plot (Point C). The kh reservoirs.
figure also shows that at the end the test instead of shutting
down pumps, as is conventionally done in a step-rate test, the Necessity of Acid Cleanup. On most occasions, the
rate is decreased to the propagation rate and pumping is perforation tunnels incur damage during perforating.
continued until the pressure becomes stable (Point D). Therefore, it is important to pump and effectively divert an
acid cleanup treatment prior to frac-pack with the objective of
Stress Prediction Correlation. For many logistical reasons it removing perforation damage. To demonstrate the effect of
is important to have an estimate of the closure pressure prior acid, skin data from build-up tests was plotted as a function of
to pumping the injection tests. As explained in detail in acid volume pumped as shown in Figure 7. It is evident that
Appendix A, the following correlation uses the classical the skin was high when less than 20 gal/ft of acid was
Hubbert and Willis equation for the estimation of closure pumped. Consequently, to minimize skin it is recommended to
pressure for reservoirs with conditions similar to those pump 40 to 50 gal of acid per foot of perforated interval with
encountered in the Gulf of Mexico where there is no some means of diversion in long interval wells.
significant tectonic activity, the overburden is the principal
stress, and the ratio between the maximum and minimum Proppant Placement
horizontal stresses is close to one. The perception in the industry is that wells produce better
when more proppant is placed behind perforations. To
σ h min = A(TVD) + B( Pp ) − C (Wdepth ) Eq. (1) investigate this, skin data as a function of proppant volume per
foot (Figure 8) was plotted. This figure indicates that skin did
not decrease with increase in proppant. In fact in four cases,
Where TVD is true vertical depth (ft), Pp is pore pressure (psi) skin was very high even though the proppant exceeded 2000
and Wdepth is water depth (ft). The values of the constants A, lbs per foot of perforated interval. This is attributed to not
B, and C are 0.342, 0.658, and 0.190, respectively. The achieving a TSO.
correlation was derived from a database of 30 fracturing
injection tests in reservoirs with water depths raging from Case History
1300 ft to 7200 ft. The error between the predicted and The application of above techniques is demonstrated in the
measured stresses was minimized using the Poisson’s ratio as economic success of the ultra-deepwater Aconcagua and
the calibration variable. The Poisson’s ratio resulting in the Camden Hills gas fields where the goal was to achieve
least error was 0.255 and the average error between the completions with low skins of less than 5.7 These fields are
predicted and measured stresses was 2.8% (Figure 5). located in Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi Canyon blocks 305 and
348, at water depth of 7000 ft to 7200 ft. There were total of 6
Fluids wells with 13 perforated zones completions. All these zones
Fluid plays a major role in the success of frac-pack treatment. were frac-packed.
It facilitates: 1) creating the fracture geometry, 2) proppant
transport as well as placement, and 3) most importantly The zones of interest in Camden Hills were close to water
initiating tip-screenout (TSO). The most commonly used fluid contact.8 Hence fracture height growth was a concern. The
SPE 84263 3

perforated interval height varied from 46 to 65 ft, and TVD slope associated with changes in temperature slope indicate
was approximately 14,000 ft. The reservoir pressure was 7065 diversion through the shunts.
psi and Bottom Hole Static Temperature (BHST) was 155O F.
In the Aconcagua field, the perforated interval height varied Lessons Learned and recommendations. Key lessons
from 35 to 111 ft, and TVD was 12,700 ft. The average learned are listed below:
reservoir pressure was 6300 psi and BHST was 128O F. • Achieving the annular pack was challenging in the
first Aconcagua well possibly due to fractures
In both fields, the formations were over-balance perforated growing into shales that remained open due to lack of
(450 to 600 psi) with Tubing Conveyed Perforating (TCP) leak-off. This resulted in pumping a slurry top-off
guns. The shot density was 18 shot per foot (spf) at 120/60O treatment and a stuck cross over tool. To prevent this
phasing. The wells were not flowed after perforating. This from happening again, in addition to the designed
method was very simple, reliable, and relatively low-risk fracturing slurry volume, we allocated 120 bbl (8-10
compared to under-balanced perforating in ppa) of slurry volume for the slow down stage. This
unconsolidated sands. proved to be successful.
• The overbalanced perforating worked well since it
In the case of Aconcagua field, two of the zones had long controlled fluid loss and prevented the spotting of
perforated intervals (> 100 ft) with high deviation angles (30- damaging loss circulation pill.
53O). In addition, most of these reservoirs consisted of • The closure pressure estimated from ESR test assured
multiple sands separated by shale layers. Beacuse of the the correct closure estimation that in some cases was
inclination and long intervals it was decided to use shunt tubes ambiguous in the calibration test.
to allow uniform annular packing and bypass possible • Designing the fracturing fluid based on cool down
localized bridging. Bottom hole temperature and pressure temperature and fracture shear rates was successful in
gages were used for post job evaluation of fracture achieving TSO.
height coverage. • Using extremely low polymer concentration cross-
linked fluid achieved the goal to control height
Frac-pack fluid selection was based on cool down temperature growth via excessive leak-off.
of 87 to 95O F. In the case of Camden Hills, instead of • Shunt tubes demonstrated effectiveness in bypassing
pumping a gravel pack or high-rate-water-pack as is typically localized bridging.
done to prevent fracture propagation into wet sand, we
designed unconventional frac-packs using an inefficient Conclusions
crosslinked fluid to control height growth through excessive Based on the content of this paper following conclusions
leak-off. The designed fracture lengths were 20-30 ft and 1 are made:
inch propped width. For the Aconcagua completions, we • Production of high permeability and unconsolidated
slightly increased the gel concentration and designed fracture
formations can be optimized only if TSO can be
lengths were 40-50 ft. During pumping operations,
achieved during frac-pack completion process.
bottomhole pressure was monitored real time via live annulus.
• Fluid should be designed based on cooldown
temperature and shear rate in the fracture.
The sequence of steps during job execution were:
• Prior to executing frac-pack, sufficient quantity of
• Pumped 50 gal/ft of 10% HCl to
acid should be pumped to clean perforations.
cleanup perforations.
• ESR is a simple and reliable technique to determine
• ESR test using a linear gel.
closure pressure.
• Calibration treatment with crosslinked gel.
• Shunts help in diversion in multi-zone reservoirs
• Frac-pack with rates ranging from 20-30 bpm.
and/or long interval completions.
• Annular pack was achieved by controlled rate slow • Proppant placement volume does not impact
down procedure.
production as long as TSO is achieved.
Results. While pumping the frac-pack treatments, we
observed net pressure gains from 300-1100 psi. The
The authors would like to thank the management of
temperature gages showed that slurry covered the entire
Schlumberger and Total E&P, USA Inc. for granting the
interval. The closure pressure estimated from ESR test permission to publish this paper. We extend our appreciation
assured the correct closure estimation that in some cases was
to Tricia O'Flaherty Lespreance for helping with
ambiguous from calibration test. The leak-off coefficient and
data compilation.
proppant placement ranged from 0.01-0.032 ft/min1/2 and 740-
1540 lb/ft, respectively. The skins calculated from injection
tests ranged from –1.5 to 4. 1) Tiner, R.L., Ely, J.W., and Schraufnagel, R.: “Frac
Packs – State of the Art,” Paper SPE 36456 Presented
There was evidence of bypassing localized bridges through the
at SPE ATCE, Denver, CO, October 6-9, 1996.
shunts as illustrated in Figure 9 where changes in pressure 2) Smith, M.B. and Hannah, R.R.: “High-Perm
Fracturing: The Evolution of a Technology,” Paper
4 SPE 84263

SPE 27984 Presented at University of Tulsa ν (σ ov − p p )

Centennial Petroleum Engineering Symposium, σ h min = + pp Eq.
Tulsa, OK, August 29-31, 1994. 1 −ν
3) Stewart, B.R., Mullen, M.E., Brown, J.E., and (A2)
Norman, W.D.: “Step-Rate, Calibration Injection and
Treating Pressure Anomalies in Soft Rock High Where ν is the Poisson’s ratio, pp is the pore pressure; and the
Permeability formations: An Explanation Based on overburden stress, σov is function of the water depth (Wdepth),
Bottom Hole Pressure and Production Results,” Paper true vertical depth (TVD), water gradient (gw =0.444 psi/ft),
SPE 29444 Presented at Production Operations and overburden gradient (gf = 1 psi/ft),
Symposium, Oklahoma City, OK, April 2-4, 1995.
4) Weng, X., Pandey, V., and Nolte, K.G.: “Equilibrium σ ov = Wdepth g w + (TVD − Wdepth ) g f Eq.
Test - A Method for Closure Pressure
Determination,” Paper SPE 78173 Presented at (A3)
SPE/ISRM Rock Mechanics Conference, Irving, TX,
October 20-23, 2002. With the exception of ν, all the parameters described above
5) Morales, R.H., Gadiyar, B.R., Bowman, M.D., were measured from downhole gauges or were known by
Wallace, C, and Norman, W.D.: “Fluid other means. The error between the σmin predicted by
Characterization for Placing an Effective Frac/Pack,” Hubbert and Willis equation and the σmin measured was
Paper SPE 71658 Presented at SPE ATCE, New minimized using ν as the calibration parameter. The ν
Orleans, LA, September 30 – October 3, 2001. resulting in the least error (2.8 %) was 0.255 (Figure 5). Thus,
6) Guinot, F., Zhao, J., James, S., and d'Huteau, E.: the constants A, B, and C (0.342, 0.658, and 0.190) were
“Screenless Completions: The Development, obtained by using a ν of 0.255 in Eq. A2.
Application and Field Validation of a Simplified
Model for Improved Reliability of Fracturing for
Sand Control Treatments,” Paper SPE 68934
Presented at SPE European Formation Damage
Conference, The Hague, The Netherlands, May 21-
22, 2001.
7) Piedras, J., Stimatz, G.P., Jackson Nelson, V.B., and
Watson, G.M.: “Canyon Express: Design and
Experience on High-Rate Deepwater Gas Producers
Using Frac-Pack and Inteligent Well Completion
Systems,” Paper OTC 15094 Presented at 2003 OTC,
Houston, TX, May 5-8, 2003.
8) Hart’s E&P Supplement: Camden Hills: A World
Record Achieved Through Innovative Solutions,
April 2003.

Appendix A
A set of data consisting of 30 in-situ minifrac tests were used
to derive the following correlation,

σ h min = A(TVD) + B( Pp ) − C (Wdepth ) Eq. (A1)

The TVD depths for the reservoirs ranged between 10000 ft to

20000 ft and the water depths ranged from 1300 ft to 7200 ft.
Furthermore, the basis for the correlation was the Hubbert and
Willis equation:
SPE 84263 5

Number of Points: 95
80 Ave. Skin: 10.30


1 100 10000 1000000

kh (md)

Figure 1: Gulf of Mexico Build-up data showing skin vs. kh

7100 ESR Test
BHP (psi)-

5.6 5.8 6 6.2 6.4
Sqrt (Total Time) (min )

Figure 2: Equilibrium Step Rate test pressure decline

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7050 B
BHP (psi)-
2 2.5 3 3.5 4
Sqrt (Total Time) (min )
Figure 3: Calibration pressure decline

4500 40
4000 35
3500 D
Pressure (psi)

Rate (bpm)

C 15
1000 10
500 R ate AP 5
0 0
260 280 300 320 340
Tim e (m in)

Figure 4: Field Example showing equilibrium step rate test and calibration test
SPE 84263 7



Average Error (%)



Error = 2.8%
2.5 ν = 0.255

0.15 0.2 0.25 0.3 0.35

Poisson's Ratio

Figure 5: Figure showing the error as function of Poisson’ s ratio for derivation of Eq. 1

FracFlow/TotalFlow (%)

4 SPF 90o Phase
70 Zero Skin
30 OH: Zero Skin
10 100 1000 10000
Permeability (md)

Figure 6: Contribution to production from the fracture compared to flow from non-aligned perforations
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Skin 20


0 20 40 60 80 100

Acid Volume (gal/ft)

Figure 7: Effect of pre-fracturing acid treatment on skin


0 2000 4000 6000
Proppant Placement (lb/ft)

Figure 8: Effect of proppant placement on skin

SPE 84263 9

8500 110
Slope change 100

Temperature (oF)
BHP (psi) 8100
8000 90
Lower 80
Sharp Pressure
7600 increase
7500 70
25 30 35 40
Time (min)

Figure 9: Bottom hole gages illustrating shunt action