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Material Selection

The proppant selected for a fracturing treatment must be capable of holding the
fracture faces apart so that formation fluids can flow through the fracture with a
minimal loss of energy, and it must be long lasting. From a practical standpoint, it
should be capable of being placed using pumping equipment and a fluid system
that are currently available. It should also be readily available, safe to handle,
and relatively inexpensive.
Sand is the least expensive proppant available. The superior-performing Northern
White Sand generally commands a slightly higher price than the Texas Brown
Sand. Intermediate Strength Proppant (ISP) products generally cost about three
to eight times as much as sand, and sintered bauxite 10 to 20 times more
expensive than sand. Additionally, service companies usually include a small
surcharge for pumping larger and premium proppants to defray the increased
wear on their pumping equipment.
The fact that sand looses part of its permeability at higher closure stresses does
not automatically mean that we must select a more expensive proppant above a
certain closure stress limit. We could always consider compensating for the loss in
dimensioned conductivity by designing for larger widths (i.e., larger areal
proppant concentration). The correct decision will involve a detailed cost analysis
of the available options. One possible compromise is to use a less expensive
proppant for the major part of the treatment, and then "tail in" with high-quality
proppant at the end.
The fluid selection process involves careful consideration of the fluids primary
functions, which include fracture initiation, fracture propagation, proppant
transport, and post-treatment return to the wellbore. The most important concern
should be sufficient proppant transport and leakoff control. The use of complex
and expensive fluid systems is not always justifiable. For instance, while
expensive additives might provide excellent leakoff control in a homogeneous
matrix, they would be much less effective in formations where fluid loss is
governed by a natural fracture network.