This paper describes a laboratory and numerical study of contained hydraulic fracture propagation via a preexisting stress gradient. This study was conducted in order to improve current knowledge of three-dimensional geometry. Laboratory tests were performed using prefractured polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) beams which were subjected to a stress gradient in the minimum principal stress direction. The fracture propagation was studied as a function of fluid rheology, flow rate and state of stress. The numerical approach consisted of a pseudo-three-dimensional model, developed to handle any type of boundary condition.

Results show that fracture-shape evolution is close to radial propagation at initiation, but becomes more and more contained as the length increases. A good prediction is achieved once the assumptions of the model are validated, i.e., once the fracture is sufficiently elongated.

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