Silica gel emerges as viscosifier for aqueous hydro-frac fluids

Silica gel as a potential viscosifier for frac fluids was introduced to the petroleum industry in the late 1970s.1 Early research identified this form of silica as providing a highly viscous, thixotropic fluid that can maintain viscosity at high temperatures. A need for this particular set of performance attributes arose in geothermal wells being stimulated in Hokkaido, Japan.2,3 This provided an opportunity for the recently developed silica-based viscosifier to move quickly to field trials. Literature reports these early applications of silica gel-viscosified frac fluids were a technical and economic success. There was a significant increase in steam volume, and the cost of a silica-based system was described as being comparable to that of the modified guar.

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