Hydraulic fracturing is used in the oil and gas industry to increase the flow of oil and/or gas from a well. The producing formation is fractured open using hydraulic pressure. Proppants (propping agents) are then pumped into the oil well with fracturing fluid to hold the fissures open so that the natural gas or crude oil can flow up the well.
The Proppant Market
The proppant market is currently experiencing very high growth, primarily driven by increased drilling in North America and the Asia-Pacific regions. North America is a major consumer of proppant and is expected to experience continued growth over the next few years.
Materials used for proppants include naturally occurring sand grains called frac sand (upper left in the photo below), resin coated frac sand (upper right), high-strength ceramic proppants (lower left), and resin coated ceramic proppants (lower right). The size, shape, and mechanical strength of proppants influence the integrity of the newly created fractures which affects the flow of oil and gas out of the well.
The Importance of Proppant Quality
One of the most important parts of a frac job is the proppant. The ability to remove hydrocarbons from a known reservoir depends entirely on the performance characteristics of the proppant pack. If the proppant used in the frac job does not meet design specifications, well performance will likely not meet production expectations.
Relationship Between Proppant Characteristics and Frac Job Design
Different well conditions require different types of proppants. When designing a frac job, you must consider the performance characteristics of the proppant. If the performance characteristics of a proppant change for any outside reason, the well performance from that proppant will not be realized. A 10% loss in median particle diameter can result in 20% loss in conductivity.