This paper describes a numerical investigation of hydraulic fracturing in oil sands during cold water injection. Previous studies have shown that hydraulic fracturing in unconsolidated or weakly consolidated sandstone reservoirs is highly influenced by the low shear strength of these materials and is quite different from competent rocks. As such, existing classical hydraulic fracture models are incapable of predicting the fracturing process of weak sandstone reservoirs. This paper presents a numerical tool to simulate hydraulic fracturing in oil sands and weak sandstone reservoirs.

A smeared fracture approach is adopted in the simulation of tensile and shear fracturing in oil sands. The model incorporates various phenomena expected in hydraulic fracturing, including poroelasticity and plasticity, matrix flow, shear and tensile fracturing and concomitant permeability enhancement, saturation-dependent permeability, stress dependent stiffness and gradual degradation of oil sands due to dilatant shear deformation and strain localization.

The results of the hydraulic fracturing simulation indicate that poroelasticity as well as shear fracturing can result in breakdown and propagation pressures larger than the maximum in-situ stress. Applying such pressures in fracturing operations can compromise the caprock integrity. It is found that at injection pressures below the vertical stress, saturation-dependent relative permeability and the development of shear fractures in the reservoir highly influence the injection response.

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