Effect of Geological Layer Properties on Hydraulic-Fracture Initiation and Propagation: An Experimental Study
- Murtadha J. AlTammar (University of Texas at Austin) | Shivam Agrawal (University of Texas at Austin) | Mukul M. Sharma (University of Texas at Austin)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Journal
- Publication Date
- April 2019
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 757 - 794
- 2019.Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Layering, Hydraulic Fracturing, Digital Image Correlation, Fracture Kinking, Fracture Growth
- 10 in the last 30 days
- 223 since 2007
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Hydraulic-fracture initiation and propagation in the presence of multiple layers with different mechanical and flow properties are investigated experimentally using a novel fracturing cell. Mixtures of plaster, clay, and hydrostone are used to cast sheet-like and porous test specimens in layers with different configurations and properties. The layered specimens are hydraulically fractured under varying far-field differential stress. Fracture growth is recorded using a high-resolution digital camera. Key frames are subsequently analyzed using digital image correlation (DIC) to reveal microcracks, measure strains, and show other features such as shear-failure events that are difficult to detect with the naked eye.
The problem of a hydraulic fracture induced in a soft layer bounded by harder layers is considered. We demonstrate numerous laboratory experiments that reveal a clear tendency for induced fractures to avoid harder bounding layers. This is seen as fracture deflection or kinking away from the harder layers, fracture curving between the harder bounding layers, and fracture tilt from the maximum far-field stress direction. These observations appear to be more pronounced as the contrast in Young’s modulus and fracture toughness between the layers increases and/or the far-field differential stress decreases. Moreover, when a fracture is induced in a relatively thin layer, the fracture avoids the harder bounding layers by starting and propagating parallel to the bounding interfaces. Fracture propagation parallel to the bounding layers is also observed in relatively wide layers when the far-field stress is isotropic or very low.
A fracture approaching a dipping, harder layer tends to curve away from the hard layer by kinking toward the high side of the interface. Nonplanar fracture trajectories are observed even in homogeneous materials when the far-field differential stress is relatively low. Furthermore, various other fracture behaviors in layered specimens are demonstrated and discussed, such as fracture offsetting at material interfaces, fracture branching and complex fracture trajectories, and shear failure of weakly bonded interfaces.
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