Summary

Weak bedding planes (BPs) that exist in many tight oil formations and shale–gas formations might strongly affect fracture–height growth during hydraulic–fracturing treatment. Few of the hydraulic–fracture–propagation models developed for unconventional reservoirs are capable of quantitatively estimating the fracture–height containment or predicting the fracture geometry under the influence of multiple BPs. In this paper, we introduce a coupled 3D hydraulic–fracture–propagation model considering the effects of BPs. In this model, a fully 3D displacement–discontinuity method (3D DDM) is used to model the rock deformation. The advantage of this approach is that it addresses both the mechanical interaction between hydraulic fractures and weak BPs in 3D space and the physical mechanism of slippage along weak BPs. Fluid flow governed by a finite–difference methodology considers the flow in both vertical fractures and opening BPs. An iterative algorithm is used to couple fluid flow and rock deformation. Comparison between the developed model and the Perkins–Kern–Nordgren (PKN) model showed good agreement.

I–shaped fracture geometry and crossing–shaped fracture geometry were analyzed in this paper. From numerical investigations, we found that BPs cannot be opened if the difference between overburden stress and minimum horizontal stress is large and only shear displacements exist along the BPs, which damage the planes and thus greatly amplify their hydraulic conductivity. Moreover, sensitivity studies investigate the impact on fracture propagation of parameters such as pumping rate (PR), fluid viscosity, and Young's modulus (YM). We investigated the fracture width near the junction between a vertical fracture and the BPs, the latter including the tensile opening of BPs and shear–displacement discontinuities (SDDs) along them. SDDs along BPs increase at the beginning and then decrease at a distance from the junction. The width near the junctions, the opening of BPs, and SDDs along the planes are directly proportional to PR. Because viscosity increases, the width at a junction increases as do the SDDs. YM greatly influences the opening of BPs at a junction and the SDDs along the BPs. This model estimates the fracture–width distribution and the SDDs along the BPs near junctions between the fracture tip and BPs and enables the assessment of the PR required to ensure that the fracture width at junctions and along intersected BPs is sufficient for proppant transport.

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