The current state-of-the-art technology for in-situ stress measurements involves an integrated approach that combines borehole breakout observations, drilling-induced tensile fractures, and hydraulic fracturing tests (i.e., “mini-fracs”). This methodology has achieved wide application in the oil and gas industry but has several limitations that often prevent successful in-situ stress measurements. One major limitation is that breakouts do not appear in all boreholes and are generally only a natural occurrence that cannot easily be controlled. Because borehole breakouts are used to directly measure the maximum horizontal in-situ stress magnitude, the absence of borehole breakouts presents a major data gap for in-situ stress measurements. In response to this data gap, a new US Department of Energy (US DOE)-sponsored thermal breakout technology that will provide a method for thermally inducing borehole breakouts and allow the consistent measurement of the maximum horizontal stress magnitude is currently in development. This thermal breakout technology involves heating the borehole and increasing the thermoelastic compressive stress in the rock until a breakout develops, which can be directly correlated to the maximum horizontal stress magnitude. The first step in this project was an analytical modeling study of the thermal breakout process. Based on the Kirsch solution (Kirsch 1898), a deterministic and statistical analysis was performed on the pertinent parameters that influence the maximum horizontal stress calculation. As a result of the analysis, the findings indicate that the thermal breakout technology is feasible and provides improved accuracy and/or an enhanced ability to measure the maximum horizontal stress. Future work as part of this US DOE-sponsored project includes additional validation through more detailed numerical modeling, laboratory testing, and field testing of the thermal breakout technology.

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