Effect of Fiber Dimensions on Particle Settling Dynamics in Viscoelastic Fluids

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Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is widely applied in the U.S. to extract shale oil and gas from underground rock formations. Fracking is accomplished by drilling miles down into the crust to reach the oil layer, breaking the rock formation with tremendous pressure to release trapped hydrocarbons, and then releasing the pressure so hydrocarbons would flow up to the surface. Special fluids called fracking fluids are used to fracture rock formations and transport proppant particles between fractures. These fluids are typically composed of 99.5% water, 0.5% polymer, <0.1% cross-linker and other additives such as surfactants and corrosion inhibitors. Common polymers used in fracking include Guar and polyethylene oxide, which are frequently cross-linked with sodium tetraborate. Fracking fluids need to transport proppants under extreme pressure and temperature for a desired time span. In order to reduce the fluid's impact on the environment while maximizing its efficiency, research is being conducted to reduce the concentration of hazardous chemical additives, especially sodium tetraborate, while preserving the fluid’s rheological properties. One method to do so is by adding a small amount of chopped fiber to the fluid. An optimal fiber choice would provide structural support and enhance the fluid’s suspension capability without increasing fluid’s viscosity or interacting with other components of the system. Preliminary experiments have been conducted by measuring the settling rates of individual particles falling through fiber-laden fluids at a fixed concentration. Results showed that the addition of fiber led to a significant reduction on particle settling rate. In this research, the effect of fiber’s physical properties, in particular, its diameter and elastic modulus will be studied by measuring particle settling rates in fiber-laden viscoelastic fluids. An explicit correlation between fiber properties and the fluids’ suspension capability is expected.


Engineering (The Ohio State University Denman Undergraduate Research Forum)


fracking, fiber, settling, environment, crosslinker, commercial