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Can designer proppants cut the water cut?

What if you could create a semi-permeable membrane in the ground that allowed oil to flow preferentially while reducing the amount of produced water going to the surface?

What if you could create a semi-permeable membrane in the ground that allowed oil to flow preferentially while reducing the amount of produced water going to the surface? What if this “membrane” doubled as a proppant, propping open the fissures created by hydraulic fracturing? Would that get producers to evaluate their completion costs and cost of water handling over the life of the well?

These questions are prompted by the development of Hexion’s AquaBond formation water reduction technology. It is a specially-formulated coating that creates a wettability properly adjusted between oleophilic and hydrophobic, so that it preferentially flows oil over water through the proppant pack. If oil is not present, water flow is not impacted.

Comparative field trials have been conducted in the Granite Wash. Two wells employed the AquaBond technology, three used conventional resin-coated proppant, and eight were completed with conventional frac sand. The results are shown in the charts below.

So will producers evaluate AquaBond’s technology when in-basin sand is available at a cost of $35 to $40 per ton? For some it will be a matter of finding the time to test the product. One oilfield services representative said, “These guys are going to the bank on Thursday and want to be drilling the following Wednesday, so time is a huge factor in decision making.” Others feel that cost reduction is more important that return on investment. A proppant testing lab representative said: “Since the downturn, the focus has been on cost reduction, which is why the locally-produced sands are becoming more prevalent.”

Hexion says their AquaBond technology can be applied in the field to in-basin sand (as well as supplied as a ready-to-use proppant). In those circumstances the user would only be paying for the coating and the service.

The success of the AquaBond technology will come down to the cost of water handling. In their promotional sheet, Hexion calculates that the cost of water for the life of a particular well could be as much as $6 million (assuming 3 million barrels of produced water and a disposal cost of $2/barrel). If the AquaBond technology kept 30% of that in the ground, as was shown in the Granite Wash case study, that would represent a savings of $1.8 million over the well’s life.

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