WHAT IS A PROPPANT?
A proppant is a primary resource for the stimulation of wells in shale or tight reservoirs. Its main function is to generate an open conductive path to allow the flow of energy resources from these reservoirs, keeping the fractures created during hydraulic stimulation operations (fracking) open.
The main characteristics that a proppant must meet include high resistance to pressure and diagenesis, roundness and sphericity, controlled granulometry, high conductivity and low cost. The proppant is the component that ensures conductivity and, thus, the success of the operation. In its use as part of the hydraulic fracturing process, it is recognized as one of the most impactful petroleum innovations of the 21st century. By combining improved drilling techniques and highly sophisticated fracturing designs, current proppant solutions help improve the production capacity of wells, resulting in more oil and natural gas, day after day.
Silica sand as a proppant
Frac sand is a natural crystalline silica (quartz) sand that is processed from high-purity sandstone. The composition of frac sand differs slightly from other types of sand, since quartz silica grains are a major component of most inter-coastal sands. The difference is that other sands are a mixture of various minerals and rock types, which are less durable than quartz. Frac sand grains are unique in their resistance to crushing, as well as their very round granule shape. This makes them ideal for use in the hydraulic fracturing process.
What is the function of frac sand?
Frac sand plays an important role in the shale fracturing process to release natural gas, oil and natural gas liquids from the rock pores. When high-pressure water injection forces small boreholes to become larger fractures, frac sand keeps those fractures open to continue releasing fossil fuels. When frac sand is used to prop those fractures, it is called "proppant". Fractures must be kept open to prevent them from collapsing and closing the pores from which natural gas and oil are obtained. Therefore, it is extremely important that the proppant be as durable and crush-resistant as possible. The longer the proppant withstands the huge pressure of the fractures, the more oil can be extracted, thus maximizing the efficiency of the well.