In this paper, the problem of a hydraulic fracture interacting with a pre-existing natural fracture has been investigated by using a cohesive zone finite element model. The model fully couples fluid flow, fracture propagation and elastic deformation, taking into account the friction between the contacting fracture surfaces and the interaction between the hydraulic fracture and the natural fracture. The effect of the field conditions, such as in-situ stresses, and rock and fracture mechanical and geometrical properties, intersection angle and the treatment parameters (fracturing fluid viscosity and injection rate) on the hydraulic fracture propagation behavior has been analyzed. The finite element modeling results provide detailed quantitative information on the development of various types of hydraulic fracture – natural fracture interaction, fracture geometry evolution and injection pressure history, and allow us to gain an in-depth understanding of the relative roles of various parameters. The value of a parameter calculated as the product of fracturing fluid viscosity and injection rate can be used as an indicator to gauge if crossing or diverting behavior is more likely. In addition, using a finite element approach allows the analysis to be extended to include the effects of fluid leakoff and poroelastic effect, and to study hydraulic fracture height growth through a system of nonhomogeneous layers and their bedding planes.

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