Currently, well stimulation in North America has evolved almost entirely to slickwater fracturing with friction reducers (FRs). Some parts of North America are notorious for their poor water quality, so wells are commonly treated using high total dissolved solids (TDS)-containing flow-back or produced water. Cationic FRs are usually applied in these systems due to their tolerance to multivalent cations in such waters. Additionally, dry friction reducers have gained momentum for better economics and logistics. In this paper, a dry cationic FR is systematically studied with respect to its "on the fly" hydration capability, friction reduction, mechanical stability, compatibility with other anionic chemical additives, and thermal stability in different levels of TDS brines.
The cationic FR solution was subjected to varying shearing rates to understand its hydration capability, friction reduction, and mechanical stability. Its compatibility with anionic additives, such as a scale inhibitor, was also tested in a laboratory friction loop. Thermal stability of the cationic FR solution was studied at 150°F using a viscometer and Multi-Angle Laser Light Scattering (MALLS) method to obtain molecular weight information. The charge characteristics of the cationic FR, indicative of self-degradation properties, with exposure to heat, were also studied. Potential formation damage of the FR solution was evaluated with core flow tests in the absence of oxidizing breakers.
Friction reduction and hydration tests show that the FR performs well in high TDS waters, even at low temperature, reaching its peak performance rapidly. The cationic FR possesses high mechanical stability even after being exposed to high pumping rates in the friction loop. It is well known that cationic FRs are not compatible with polyanionic scale inhibitors; in this study, a compatible scale inhibitor, SI-1, is identified. Additionally, there has historically been hesitation to use such cationic materials due to concerns of formation compatibility with negatively charged source rocks or flocculation in water treatment plants. Thermal testing with cationic FRs reveals that the material degrades to anionic without the aid of any other additive, which is confirmed by the fact that addition of polycationic additive, C1, caused coacervation in the heat-treated sample. As a result, concerns over effects of rock wettability or incompatibility with water treatment additives can be alleviated. No anionic FRs undergo similar change of the ionic charge. Thermal testing with cationic FR solutions also shows a significant viscosity drop, surprisingly without pronounced molecular weight loss (via MALLS). However, core flow testing of cationic FR fluids shows good regained permeability, even without breakers, further confirming self-cleaning capability. The degradation mechanism of these FRs will be shown.
The self-cleaning capability of the dry cationic FR, even at relatively low bottomhole temperature (BHT), in combination with its high salt-tolerance, makes it an excellent friction reducer for multiple applications, especially with low quality water.