Microseismic mapping during hydraulic fracturing processes in Vaca Muerta (VM) Shale in Argentina shows a group of microseismic events happening at shallower depth and at later injection time, and they clearly deviate from the growing planar hydraulic fracture. This spatial and temporal behavior of these shallow microseismic events incurs some questions regarding the nature of these events and their connectivity to the hydraulic fracture. To answer these questions, in this paper, we investigate these phenomena using a true 3D fracture propagation modeling tool along with statistical analysis on the properties of microseismic events.

First, we propose a novel technique in Abaqus incorporating fracture intersections in true 3D hydraulic fracture propagation simulations based on pore-pressure Cohesive Zone Model (CZM). The simulations fully couple slit flow in fracture with poro-elasticity in matrix and continuum-based leak-off on the fracture walls, and honor the fracture tip effects in quasi-brittle shale. Using this model, we quantify vertical natural fracture activation depending on reservoir depth, fracturing fluid viscosity, mechanical properties of the natural fracture cohesive layer, natural fracture conductivity, and horizontal stress contrast. The modeling results demonstrate this natural fracture activation in coincidence with the hydraulic fracture growth complexities at the intersection such as height throttling, sharp aperture reduction after the intersection, and multi-branching at various heights and directions.

Finally, we investigate the hydraulic fracture intersection with a natural fracture in the multi-layer VM Shale. We infer the natural fracture location and orientation from the microseismic events map and Formation MicroImager log in a nearby vertical well, respectively. We integrate the other field information such as mechanical, geological, and operational data to provide a realistic hydraulic fracturing simulation in the presence of a natural fracture. Our 3D fracturing simulations equipped by the new fracture intersection model rigorously simulate the growth of a realistic hydraulic connection path toward the natural fracture at shallower depths, which was in agreement with our microseismic observations.

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