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Linear Elastic and Cohesive Fracture Analysis to Model Hydraulic Fracture in Brittle and Ductile Rocks

ABSTRACT

Hydraulic fracturing technology is being widely used within the oil and gas industry for both waste injection and unconventional gas production wells. It is essential to predict the behavior of hydraulic fractures accurately based on understanding the fundamental mechanism(s). The prevailing approach for hydraulic fracture modeling continues to rely on computational methods based on Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics (LEFM). Generally, these methods give reasonable predictions for hard rock hydraulic fracture processes, but still have inherent limitations, especially when fluid injection is performed in soft rock/sand or other non-conventional formations. These methods typically give very conservative predictions on fracture geometry and inaccurate estimation of required fracture pressure. One of the reasons the LEFM-based methods fail to give accurate predictions for these materials is that the fracture process zone ahead of the crack tip and softening effect should not be neglected in ductile rock fracture analysis. A 3D pore pressure cohesive zone model has been developed and applied to predict hydraulic fracturing under fluid injection. The cohesive zone method is a numerical tool developed to model crack initiation and growth in quasi-brittle materials considering the material softening effect. The pore pressure cohesive zone model has been applied to investigate the hydraulic fracture with different rock properties. The hydraulic fracture predictions of a three-layer water injection case have been compared using the pore pressure cohesive zone model with revised parameters, LEFM-based pseudo 3D model, a Perkins-Kern–Nordgren (PKN) model, and an analytical solution. Based on the size of the fracture process zone and its effect on crack extension in ductile rock, the fundamental mechanical difference of LEFM and cohesive fracture mechanics-based methods is discussed. An effective fracture toughness method has been proposed to consider the fracture process zone effect on the ductile rock fracture.