UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An investigation into the controls and variability of the flowback water inorganic geochemistry of the Montney Formation, Northeastern British Columbia and Northwestern Alberta, Canada Owen, Jennifer Nicole


The Montney Formation is the principal unconventional hydrocarbon reservoir currently being developed in Canada. The flowback water from 31 wells located on 9 well pads was sampled over time and analyzed for major ions, key minor ions, and δ¹⁸O and δ²H isotopes. The injected hydraulic fracturing fluids and produced waters, if available, were analyzed for the same parameters. The results of the study are used to compare the flowback water chemistry between wells and investigate the variables that have a significant influence on the chemistry. When comparing the flowback water chemistry between multiple wells, consideration must be given to the length of the flowback period, as the major ion concentrations typically increase over time. The dominant influence on the increasing concentrations is mixing between hydraulic fracturing fluid and formation water. Cl and stable water isotopes were used as conservative tracers to calculate the increasing proportions of formation water. These proportions were used with geochemical models to determine that mixing explains the Na and K concentrations, while mixing with ion exchange is influencing Ca, Mg, and Sr concentrations. Sulfate concentrations are influenced by pyrite oxidation and sulfate reduction. The rate of increase of the major ions varies between wells, although it is often, but not always, similar between wells completed at the same site, due to similarities in reservoir properties and well completion. The inconsistency is due to the many variables that may impact the flowback water chemistry. A multiple regression analysis identified shut-in time as an important variable, with longer shut-in correlating to higher concentrations. The chemistry of hydraulic fracturing fluids and formation waters were found to be important variables for some ions. The minor ions included in the study are Ba, B, and Li. Ba concentrations are likely related to barite dissolution/precipitation and are highest where sulfate concentrations are low. B and Li concentrations are both dominantly influenced by mixing and may vary due to differences in formation water chemistry. Overall, the results are expected to contribute to the growing knowledge on flowback water chemistry and its use in investigating the processes occurring in the reservoir during hydraulic fracturing.

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