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Causes of Sand Production

Sand may be produced with fluid production because of lack
of grain bonding or consolidation.
Structural weakness causes sand grains to move when
subjected to stresses caused by
Fluid pressure drop from reservoir to wellbore
Fluid friction
Overburden stresses
Other important factors :
Critical Flow rate
Formation strength vs Drag force
Under normal producing conditions a well may
produce some amount of sand or fines
independent of production rate till a critical
production rate is exceeded. Continued production
above critical rate results in increased amount of
Sand grains are stabilized by
1.Compressive forces due to weight of overburden
2.Capillary forces
3.Cementation between sand grains.
Causes of sand production :
Drag forces of flowing fluid increase at high flow rate
Higher fluid viscosity.
Reduction in formation strength:
Water production-due to loss of cementing material,
Reduction in capillary forces with increasing water
Reduced relative permeability to oil-due to increased
This leads to increased drawdown for a given oil
production rate.
Declining reservoir pressure-which increases
compaction force and disturbs cementation between
Production and Economic Losses
Sanding-clean out cost-well, separators, treaters, tanks, etc. ,
production loss, formation damage.
Wells operating at restricted rates to avoid or reduce sand
Loss of well head or surface equipment by abrasive force of
sand laden fluid which may lead to physical danger or
Casing collapse, due to slumping of higher formations into
zone weakened by sand production.
Sand Control
Three methods:
Reducing Drag Forces - Cheapest and most effective.
Should be considered along with any other method of
control. Often due to proper well completion.
Bridging Sand Mechanically - If properly done it has
wide application. Difficult to apply in multiple zones or
small diameter casing.
Increasing Formation Strength - Sand consolidation
Drag Force Reduction
Most effective and simplest way of sand control.
Production rate at which sanding starts should be
considered as a rate-per-unit area of permeable
formation open to wellbore.
Can be done by:
Increasing flow area
Restricting production rate
1. Clean, large perforations.
2. Increasing perforation density.
3. Exposing increased length of section.
4. Create a conductive channel some distance into
reservoir by a packed fracture
Can be accomplished by good completion practices,
use of clean fluids, proper selection of perforation
charges and perforating conditions
RESTRICTING PRODUCTION RATE :Important to know critical
flow rate.
Step wise increase in production rate leads to increase in
sand production at each increase then gradually decreases
to original rate .This is due to surge effect which breaks
unstable bridge which is formed at a certain rate, these
bridges are formed again at higher rate. When critical rate is
reached, bridges do not reform. Strength of structure has
been exceeded and sand production continues at higher
rates. Production rate is reduced much below critical rate
allowing bridges to reform. Once such a condition is reached
then rate can be increased to a level which is below critical.
produced sand concentration versus production rate
Mechanical Methods of Sand Control
Provides a physical barrier to sand movement.
Holds sand in formation
Screen to stop sand without gravel.
Physical barrier :
Gravel pack
Combination of both
Flow passages through gravel or screen are small enough to
prevent sand production and large enough to allow good well
productivity and minimize plugging by clays, asphaltenes, wax or
Wire wrapped and slotted pipe screens are generally
Wire wrapped screens :
Made by forming a nearly continuous slot on the outer
side of pipe which has machined holes or large slots.
Slot opening in wire wrapping is set by lugs formed on
one side of wire. Wire has a trapezoidal cross-section
to provide a vee-shaped slot narrow towards
formation and wide in the direction of flow towards
inside of liner to minimize particle bridging in slots.
Slotted pipe
Is milled in different patterns. Liner slots are
machined to have an undercut vee-shape similar to
wire-wrapped screen. Wire-wrapped screen has
much larger slot area than slotted pipe, but slotted
pipe is still preferred.
Two types of prepack liners are in use
Gravel filled liner-is the earlier form. Gravel filled
prepack failed in heavy oil completions, because liners
plugged with mixture of asphaltenes and silt.
Bonded sand prepack: Developed after dependable
bonding resins became available. Used extensively in
clean formations with medium to high gravity oil.
Both forms of prepack are used if formation sand and
fluid characteristics are satisfactory, and size
distribution of prepack sand is selected appropriately
Screen Liner Considerations
Ribbed wire wrapped screens costs twice the slotted
pipe. It provides eight to ten times the open area. for
same slot width. All-weld screen provides twice the
open area as the ribbed screen and costs twice as
Wire-wrapped screens have the advantage of using
erosion and corrosion resistant materials.
Liner is centralized inside casing or in open hole. A
liner packer is required to prevent flow of fluids and
gravel upward around outer side of liner.
High productivity due to less restriction of formation sand.
Generally less overall cost
Screens are subjected to lesser corrosion
Effective in controlling long intervals
Better at treating wells where sanding has already started
Effective in controlling intervals with high heterogeneity.
Wellbore diameter is restricted due to gravel and
Requires complete removal of pack and liner
during workover
Difficult to isolate undesirable zones like water, gas
Design Criteria
1.Optimum gravel size in relation to formation
sand size.
2. Optimum screen slot width to retain gravel or,
formation sand if there is no gravel.
3. Effective placement is critical.
Getting representative samples. Sand-grain size
distribution varies in any sand body and from one zone
to other. To get a representative sample large number
of samples are required.
Full dia. cores
Produced sand samples-back wash or sand bailed
Perforation washing or backsurging
Sieve analysis provides grain size distribution on
percentile basis.
Typical sand analysis distribution

Ten-percentile sand size is defined as the point on

distribution scale where 10% by weight of the sand is
of larger size and 90% of smaller size.
In tight pack sand grain is too large to move through pores of
gravel pack. Sand is stopped at boundary. In loose pack sand
grain can move through pores between gravel grains.
Formation sand must be stopped at outer face of gravel pack.
This allows maximum productivity. If sand bridging occurs within
gravel pack itself permeability is reduced to a large extent.
Gravel size determination - studies carried out by
Coberly and Wagner(1938)
Hill (1941)
Gumpertz (1940)
Saucier (1974)
Schwartz (1968)
Maly and Kreuger (1970)
G-S ratio-gravel to sand size ratio
Coberly and Wagner, Hill Gumpertz :
Defined gravel size with respect to the sand size.
Term "gravel-sand size ratio".
Largest gravel size
G-S ratio =
10 percentile sand size
50 percentile gravel
G-S ratio =
50 percentile sand size
10 percentile gravel
G-S ratio =
10 percentile sand size
40 percentile gravel
G-S ratio =
40 percentile sand size
Mary and Kreuger
Smallest gravel
G-S ratio =
10 percentile sand size
Uniformity coefficient
Determined by comparing 40-percentile size (D40) with 90-
percentile size (D90)
C = 90
(D )
If C < 3 - sand is uniform and is described by the (D10) size
If C > 5 - sand is non-uniform and is described by the (D40)
If C > 10 - sand is very non-uniform and is described by (D70)
Effect of G-S ratio on gravel pack permeability is
shown by lab work by Saucier. It indicates ideal ratio in
the range of 5 to 6.
Schwartz method takes in to account the effect of
flow velocity and recommended
1. Uniform sand (C less than 5) and with flow
velocity less than 0.05 ft/sec:
G-S ratio: D 10 gravel = 6 x D 10 sand
2. Uniform sand (C greater than 5) and with flow
velocity greater than 0.05 ft/sec:
G-S ratio: D 40 gravel = 6 x D 40 sand
3.Flow velocity is calculated
production rate cubic feet per second
Flow velocity=
50% of open area of slots sq.ft
Generally gravel-sand size ratios is kept in the
range of 5 to 6
Gravel size is generally based on recommendation
of Schwartz or Saucier.
Gravel Selection
1. Roundness and sphericity: Krumbein scale of 0.6 or
better. Flat or angular grains are avoided.
2. Grain strength: depends on depth and formation
stress level same as frac sand. In standard lab tests,
fines generated by 2,000 psi stress should be less than
3. Acid solubility: acid solubility should be checked.
Gravel should be greater than 98% pure silica. Feldspar
content should be zero as feldspar is fully soluble in HF
Glass beads are slowly soluble in HF .
4. Uniformity: closer the limits on gravel grain size
variation, greater will be the permeability. Schwartz
suggests a uniformity coefficient less than 1.50.
Material finer than the lower size limit is particularly
5. Clay size material: Presence of clay or silt can be
determined by adding clear water to a bottle partially
full of gravel. After vigorous shaking turbidity indicates
fines. Turbidity should be less than 1%.
Mixing of high permeability gravel with formation
sand, may occur during placement of gravel. This will
reduce permeability. Fines in gravel will also decrease
gravel pack permeability.
General Rules followed in industry
1. Use as large a gravel as possible, and sand is
stopped at outer boundary of gravel pack.
2. Gravel size at 40-percentile point should be 6 times
40-percentile point on sand analysis curve. For low
velocities and uniform sands
3. Where sand grain analyses vary within formation,
attention paid to smaller sand sizes, specially for wells
with higher flow velocity, more non-uniform sand,
fluctuating flow rate, and high gas-oil ratios.
4. Pack gravel tightly. G-S ratios are based on a tight
5. Pack thickness should be at least 3 inches. Thicker
packs permit higher flow velocity.
6. Don't mix gravel with formation sand in placement.
Selection of gravel pack fluid :
Low viscosity-Brine, oil, diesel,
Viscosity and fluid loss control-Calcium carbonate,HEC
,oil soluble particulate matter like benzoic acid
Fluid density-to hold formation pressure
Viscous water fluid-for high concentration slurries
Gravel Packing Fluid
For transportation gravel to formation It is
necessary to mix it with carrier fluid. After gravel is
transported to formation fluid is either lost to
formation or returns to surface through well.
Two main methods:
Conventional technique
Slurry technique
In conventional method gravel is added to water or oil
as it is being pumped down the hole. Minimum
equipment is needed to do these treatments.
Generally surface equipment:
Injection pump
Gravel packing pot.
Gravel is packed into pot and it is picked up by flowing
stream of liquid going through bottom of pot. Sand
water blenders are used now which help in controlling
gravel concentration
Due to low viscosity of water, carrying capacity is
limited (0.5-1 pound of gravel per gallon of fluid).
Requires high pumping rate to avoid gravel settling.
At fluid injection rates through perforations fluid
travels at high velocity which may leave formation
In cased hole completions, low viscosity is not
efficient to transport gravel through perforations.
Most of settles down due to gravity or inertia.
Gelled fluid like a gelled brine is used as fluid.
Higher gravel concentration can be pumped (15
pound of gravel per gallon of fluid).Allows lower
pumping rates.
High gravel concentration reduces injection rates
which minimize mixing of formation sand and
gravel. System works like a cement slurry and
pushes the formation back as a mass.
Less gravel/formation sand mixing
Less fluid loss to formation
Tighter pack
Less chance of voids
Better transport in deviated holes
Leak off to formation is slower (slower dehydration of
Viscous fluid is difficult to clean up
Gravel Placement Techniques
To ensure a good gravel pack over entire
productive interval, different placement techniques
are used
Normal circulation – using the crossover tool
Reverse circulation
Squeeze gravel packing
Washdown gravel packing
Normal Circulation Gravel Pack
Circulation of gravel pack in conventional way using
crossover tool. Gravel and water are pumped through
tubing and through crossover tool in the screen/casing
annulus. Crossover tool diverts sand and fluid which is
flowing down to outside liner and upward flowing fluid
to annulus for return to surface.
Gravel is deposited across liner and water circulates
through screen and flows through crossover tool into
annulus above packer and returns to surface through
Circulate conventional water/gravel mix through
tubing-casing annulus which allows the fluid to
return through tubing. Slurry flows through
annulus and gravel is retained on the outside of
screen. Carrier fluid flows through screen and
moves up to surface through tubing
Generally used to pack intervals of 30 ft or less where
chance of high permeability is less. These streaks may
cause incomplete pack. Carrier fluid is lost to
formation. Gravel pack assembly is positioned across
completion interval, packer is set and crossover is
opened. Viscous slurry with gravel carries gravel to its
location by pumping slurry through tubing and
through crossover tool. Then It passes into the screen-
casing annulus and through perforations.
Carrier fluid is squeezed out into formation to
dehydrate slurry and form an effective pack .
Pumping is continued till sand out occurs indicating
no more gravel can be squeezed into the annulus.
After gravel pack excess gravel above liner is
reverse washed and workstring is pulled out.
Carrier fluid should be compatible with formation
matrix and formation fluids
Used in cased hole completions. Gravel is injected
into perforations before placing screen. Then
screen is run into well. Assembly is then washed
down to final position by circulating brine through
washpipe and shoe. When shoe reaches desired
depth circulation is stopped and gravel is allowed
to settle around screen and liner
In cased hole gravel packs, gravel is placed within
perforations. To do this the perforations should be:
large enough to accept the gravel
allow carrier fluid to penetrate easily (high
Gravel cannot be carried into a perforation that does
not accept fluid readily. Perforations should be large
diameter and clean . Even where clean perforating
fluids are used, injectivity into a perforation is
restricted by metallic particles from charges and
crushed formation particles. Restriction is severe when
overbalanced perforation is done. A cavity is created
behind casing
Perforation washing tools

Gravel is pumped through tubing and

forced through perforations. Carrier fluid
then passes through liner and moves
up through washpipe and leaves gravel

Tubing and washpipe are then pulled up

a little and stage 1 is repeated again
which allows more gravel to settle
Second stage is a washdown procedure.
It consists of pumping fluid through
washpipe to displace gravel, which
allows screen to be placed downhole.
Thickness of the gravel pack is an important factor which affects
well productivity. Lab studies and field tests have shown:
In lab a gravel pack thickness of four or five gravel diameters
controls sand effectively. Actually thicker packs are needed.
3-in. of gravel thickness is taken as minimum due to practical
problems of gravel placement and fluctuating flow velocities
Open hole is generally underreamed to give 3 in. on radius
between screen and formation.
In perforated casing, gravel is placed through perforation tunnel
and outside casing.