A New Physics-Based Modeling of Multiple Non-Planar Hydraulic Fractures Propagation 

EGI staff and students attended the Unconventional Resources Technology Conference in San Antonio in July where we had the opportunity to highlight the innovative research taking place at EGI and meet with CA members, friends, and colleagues throughout the industry.

Among the EGI activities at this year’s Conference was a presentation by EGI student researcher and Ph.D. candidate Jing Zhou. Jing’s presentation highlights hydraulic fracture propagation using novel physics-based modeling research.

Abstract Title: A New Physics-Based Modeling of Multiple Non-Planar Hydraulic Fractures Propagation

Session Title: Modeling Well Spacing and Multiscale Transport

 July 21, 2015


Because of the low permeability in shale plays, closely spaced hydraulic fractures and multilateral horizontal wells are generally required to improve production. Therefore, understanding the potential fracture interaction and stress evolution is critical in optimizing fracture/well design and completion strategy in multi-stage horizontal wells.

In this paper, a novel fully coupled reservoir flow and geomechanics model based on the dual-lattice system is developed to simulate multiple non-planar fractures propagation. The numerical model from Discrete Element Method (DEM) is used to simulate the mechanics of fracture propagations and interactions, while a conjugate irregular lattice network is generated to represent fluid flow in both fractures and formation. The fluid flow in the formation is controlled by Darcy’s law, but within fractures it is simulated by using cubic law for laminar flow through parallel plates. Initiation, growth and coalescence of the microcracks will lead to the generation of macroscopic fractures, which is explicitly mimicked by failure and removal of bonds between particles from the discrete element network.

We investigate the fracture propagation path in both homogeneous and heterogeneous reservoirs using the simulator developed. Stress shadow caused by the transverse fracture will change the orientation of principal stress in the fracture neighborhood, which may inhibit or alter the growth direction of nearby fracture clusters. However, the initial in-situ stress anisotropy often helps overcome this phenomenon. Under large in-situ stress anisotropy, the hydraulic fractures are more likely to propagate in a direction that is perpendicular to the minimum horizontal stress. Under small in-situ stress anisotropy, there is a greater chance for fractures from nearby clusters to merge with each other. Then, we examine the differences in fracture geometry caused by fracturing in cemented or uncemented wellbore. Moreover, the impact of intrinsic reservoir heterogeneity caused by the rock fabric and mineralogy on fracture nucleation and propagation paths is examined through a three-layered reservoir. Finally, we apply the method to a realistic heterogeneous dataset.