Quantitative and visual analysis of proppant transport in rough fractures

Aigerim Raimbay, Tayfun Babadagli*, Ergun Kuru, Kayhan Develi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


The consensus reached in the literature is that the roughness of fractures plays a crucial role on proppant transport affecting the aperture sustainability and conductivity of hydraulic fractures. To clarify this, an experimental scheme and analysis are presented in this paper. Propping agents were introduced into seven different transparent fracture replicas obtained from different origin rock samples (granite, marble, and limestone) at a high rate mimicking hydraulic fracturing process conditions. The inlet pressure was continuously monitored to quantify the change in hydraulic conductivity due to proppant distribution. Corresponding images were collected to trace the transport of proppants and their behavior was correlated to the measured pressure drop (representing conductivity) change. Experiments were repeated on joint (perfectly mating) and horizontally displaced (sheared-unmating) models using water and polymer solution. Existing closure areas controlled by roughness dictated proppant movement and the change in hydraulic conductivity significantly in both joint and displaced type fractures. To quantify this effect, pressure drop across the model and proppant distribution (area saturated with sands) were correlated to three fractal methods (variogram, power spectral density, and triangular prism) and the ratio of total and planar fracture surface areas. Correlation parameters and types differ for water and polymer solution. Joint and displaced type fractures also showed differences in hydraulic conductivity change and sand distribution for certain type of rocks, especially at the higher variogram fractal dimensions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1291-1307
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Natural Gas Science and Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier B.V.


This research was conducted under the second author's (TB) NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Unconventional Oil Recovery (industrial partners are CNRL, SUNCOR, Petrobank (Touchstone Exp.), Sherritt Oil, APEX Eng., PEMEX, Statoil, Saudi Aramco and Husky Energy) and, the Helmholtz Alberta Initiative (HAI) project funded by the Alberta Government. The first author (AR) is thankful to JCS “Center for International Programs,” funded by the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan for the MSc scholarship granted. The fourth author (KD) thanks the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) for his postdoctoral scholarship through the BIDEP program. We gratefully acknowledge these supports. This paper is substantially revised and modified version of SPE 173385 presented at the SPE Hydraulic Fracturing Technology Conference held in the Woodlands, Texas, USA, 3–5 February 2015.

FundersFunder number
Saudi Aramco and Husky Energy
Sherritt Oil
Government of Alberta
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Türkiye Bilimsel ve Teknolojik Araştırma Kurumu
Helmholtz-Alberta Initiative


    • Aperture stability
    • Fractal fracture surfaces
    • Fracture conductivity
    • Fracture roughness
    • Proppant transport


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