Stability and conductivity of proppant packs during flowback in unconventional reservoirs: A CFD–DEM simulation study


We present simulations using a coupled Computational Fluid Dynamics–Discrete Element Method (CFD–DEM) approach for a slurry of millimeter-sized particles in water which is squeezed between two walls and then made flow out though a narrow aperture. The process is akin to the flowback stage in the near wellbore zone of a hydraulic-stimulated well for hydrocarbon recovery. We consider different wall roughness and investigate its effect on particle production, final distance between walls, spatial particle distribution between the walls, and fluid production rate. We have found that the final distribution of particles changes significantly with small variations in the roughnesses of the walls. This in turn leads to production flow rates that may vary up to 50%. Although the main driver of the production for unconventional wells is the propped fracture network, these results suggest that the roughness of the fracture walls seems to play an important role in the final conductivity and therefore in the ultimate recovery.

Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering