Insights From Image-Based Modeling of Fluid Flow in Bulk Proppant Packs and Propped Fractures Under Varying Confining Stress
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The images show expected changes as stress is increased: rearrangement of the packing structure, corresponding reduction in porosity, and some embedding at rock walls. At the largest stresses, individual proppant particles began to break apart.
Numerical simulation was performed using finite element and lattice Boltzmann methods. Results from both methods were used to compute permeability and Forchheimer coefficient (Beta factor) for the structures. Simulation results show reasonable agreement with experimental (vendor-reported) conductivity values (both permeability and beta). However, our results show that conductivity is less sensitive to loading than has been reported. Another somewhat surprising result is that fracture conductivity for the single-layer proppants confined between shale is similar to what would be predicted from bulk-proppant permeability, despite the significantly different flow geometry in the monolayer fracture. Possible reasons for this result as well as insights derived from flow visualization are presented in the paper.