During hydraulic fracturing, the interaction of hydraulic fractures with natural fractures can result in the formation of complex fracture networks. In the past these interactions have been captured in hydraulic fracturing models using crossing criteria developed based on two-dimensional geometries. In this work, we investigate the interaction of hydraulic fractures and natural fractures in three-dimensions and demonstrate that there can be significant differences in the observed interactions.

A hydraulic fracturing simulator is presented that solves the coupled fluid flow and geomechanics problem for three-dimensional fractures. The simulator captures the physics of fracture growth and the intersection of hydraulic fracture with pre-existing discrete fracture network. The model employs a robust algorithm to account for the stress relaxation due to the slippage of natural fractures. The displacement of failed natural fracture elements is calculated rigorously. The model allows the partial failure of three-dimensional natural fractures and accurately calculates the stresses acting on the plane of the natural fracture.

It is shown that a natural fracture inclined at an angle to an approaching hydraulic fracture experiences compression in one region (due to the stress shadow of the growing hydraulic fracture) and tension in other regions (in front of the approaching hydraulic fracture tip). The generated stresses can fail the natural fracture partially. The failure of the natural fracture relaxes the stresses around it, which can modify the direction of propagation of the approaching hydraulic fracture. In addition, if the elliptical front of the hydraulic fracture crosses an intact planar natural fracture, the three-dimensional geometry results in a line of intersection (between natural fracture and hydraulic fracture). This can lead to failure of the natural fracture even after the elliptical front has partially crossed the natural fracture. Such an interaction can allow the hydraulic fracture to both cross the natural fracture and activate (or dilate) it. These effects cannot be captured by two-dimensional simulations. This work improves our understanding of the interaction between hydraulic fractures and natural fractures. The novel results provide new insights into the mechanisms responsible for the complexity that is often observed in hydraulic fractures.

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