A recently developed unconventional fracture model (UFM) is able to simulate complex fracture network propagation in a formation with pre-existing natural fractures. Multiple fracture branches can propagate simultaneously and intersect/cross each other. Each open fracture exerts additional stresses on the surrounding rock and adjacent fractures, which is often referred to as "stress shadow" effect. The stress shadow can cause significant restriction of fracture width, leading to greater risk of proppant screenout. It can also alter the fracture propagation path and drastically affect fracture network patterns. It is hence critical to properly model the fracture interaction in a complex fracture model.

A method for computing the stress shadow in a complex hydraulic fracture network is presented. The method is based on an enhanced 2D Displacement Discontinuity Method with correction for finite fracture height. The computed stress field is compared to 3D numerical simulation in a few simple examples and shows the method provides a good approximation for the 3D fracture problem. This stress shadow calculation is incorporated in the UFM. The results for simple cases of two fractures shows the fractures can either attract or repel each other depending on their initial relative positions and compares favorably with an independent 2D non-planar hydraulic fracture model.

Additional examples of both planar and complex fractures propagating from multiple perforation clusters are presented, showing that fracture interaction controls the fracture dimension and propagation pattern. In a formation with small stress anisotropy, fracture interaction can lead to dramatic divergence of the fractures as they tend to repel each other. However, even when stress anisotropy is large and fracture turning due to fracture interaction is limited, stress shadowing still has a strong effect on fracture width, which affects the injection rate distribution into multiple perforation clusters, and hence overall fracture network geometry and proppant placement.

You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.