Current global energy demand and supply gap needs the best engineering methods to recover hydrocarbons from the unconventional hydrocarbon resources. Unconventional resources mostly found in highly stressed, over pressured, and deep formations, where the rock strength and integrity both are very high. The pressure at which the rock fractures or simply the breakdown pressure is directly correlated with the rock tensile strength and the stresses acting on them from the surrounding formations. When fracturing these kinds of rocks, the hydraulic fracturing operation becomes much more challenging and difficult, and in some scenarios reached to the maximum pumping capacity limits. This reduces the operational gap to optimally placed hydraulic fractures.
In the present research study, a novel thermochemical fracturing approach is presented to reduce the breakdown pressure of the high-strength layered formations. The new approach not only reduces the breakdown pressure of the layered rocks but also generate highly conductive fractures which can penetrate in most of the layers being subjected to fracturing. The hydraulic fracturing experiments presented in this study are carried out on four layered cement block samples. The composition of cement blocks is synthesized in this way that it simulates the real rocks.
The results showed that the newly proposed thermochemical fracturing approach reduced the breakdown pressure in layered rocks from 1495 psia (reference breakdown pressure recorded from conventional hydraulic fracturing technique) to 1107 psia. The post treatment experimental analysis showed that the thermochemical fracturing approach resulted in deep and long fractures, passing through majority of the layers while conventional hydraulic fracturing resulted in a thin fracture affected only the top layer. Thermochemical fluids injection caused the creation of microfractures, improved the porosity and permeability, and reduces the Young's modulus of the rocks. The new technique is cost effective, non-toxic, and sustainable in terms of no environmental hazards.