Proppant transport in a propagating hydraulic fracture and the evolution of transport properties

J. Wang, D. Elsworth, M. K. Denison

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

5 Scopus citations


A numerical model is developed to describe proppant transport within a propagating blade-shaped fracture towards defining the fracture conductivity and reservoir production following fracture arrest, deflation then production. Fracture propagation is formulated based on the PKN-formalism coupled with advective transport of an equivalent slurry representing a proppant-laden fluid. Empirical constitutive relations are incorporated to define rheology of the slurry, proppant transport with bulk slurry flow, proppant gravitational settling and finally the transition from Poiseuille (fracture) flow to Darcy (proppant pack) flow. At the maximum extent of the fluid-driven fracture, as driving pressure is released, a fracture closure model is employed to follow the evolution of fracture conductivity with the decreasing fluid pressure. This model is capable of accommodating the mechanical response of the proppant pack, fracture closure of potentially contacting rough surfaces, proppant embedment into fracture walls, and most importantly flexural displacement of the unsupported spans of the fracture. Results show that reduced fluid viscosity increases the length of the resulting fracture, while rapid leak-off decreases it. Proppant density and size do not significantly influence fracture propagation. Proppant settling ensues throughout fracture advance, and is accelerated by a lower viscosity fluid or greater proppant density or size, resulting in accumulation of a proppant bed at the fracture base. “Screen-out” of proppant at the fracture tip can occur where fracture aperture is only several times the diameter of the individual proppant particles. After fracture closure, proppant packs comprising larger particles exhibit higher conductivity. More importantly, high-conductivity flow channels are necessarily formed around proppant banks due to the flexural displacement of the fracture walls, which offer preferential flow pathways and significantly influence the distribution of fluid transport.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2019
Event53rd U.S. Rock Mechanics/Geomechanics Symposium - Brooklyn, United States
Duration: Jun 23 2019Jun 26 2019


Conference53rd U.S. Rock Mechanics/Geomechanics Symposium
Country/TerritoryUnited States

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics


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