Abstract

There is concern that hydraulic fracturing (HF) near an existing critically stressed fault could trigger slip and generate a seismic event of significance. To this end, a mathematical discontinuum model representing a naturally fractured rock (NFR) mass containing a fault is created, and fault slip response to fluid injection is studied. UDEC™ is used as a Discrete Element Method (DEM) approach to define the seismic moment, and also to assess the influence of injection and slip on further shear slip propagation. In most of the simulations, slip and dilation take place along a number of oriented fracture surfaces, so it is reasonable to assume that in a real case, microseimic emissions would accompany each slip "event". The moment magnitude scale (Mw) is used to measure the size of the microseismic event in terms of the energy released. Seismic moment is a measure of the total energy (work) released during a seismic event and is used to measure its size. From another aspect, the injection energy is calculated as the total energy required for achieving the hydraulic fracturing; this is viewed as energy to open fractures against the ambient stress field and much of it is potential stored energy that can be released and create discontinuities (work of fracture), deformations (W=F·d), heat and radiated seismic energy. A small amount of the total released energy is transformed to radiated seismic energy and another small amount results in tensile fractures. Fracture energy is used to calculate the work required to create fracture surfaces. Comparing the energy release by fracturing or seismic events indicates their contribution to the total amount of released energy or total work. The amount of energy associated with the stick-slip event is small compared with the overall work done to generate the distortions (i.e. increases in aperture by forcing them open) in the rock mass, and much of the energy in slip is lost as heat from the plastic deformation, rather than as radiated seismic energy.

Microseismic monitoring shows the spatial distribution and magnitude of seismicity associated with slip of bedding planes and natural and incipient fractures. Work calculations have been undertaken to look at the various sources of energy storage (elastic strain energy) or dissipation (slip), and likely the energy losses from viscous dissipation could be addressed as well, helping to clarify HF processes in NFRs.

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