You are on page 1of 8

1.

INTRODUCTION
Hydraulic fracturing is a widely used technology in
stimulation of unconventional reservoirs to obtain
commercial production. As fracture stimulation is an
important aspect of well completion in unconventional
reservoirs to unlock the hydrocarbon
permeability formations, basic information about
fractures such as the direction of fracture propagation
and the impact of natural fractures on hydraulic fracture
propagation as well as the rate of production are the
critical points while fracturing. Although hydraulic
fractures usually open in the direction
principal stress and propagate perpendicular to
direction, but its been proven to be more complex than
initially thought [1]. Hydraulic fracture propagation in
the presence of natural fractures is substantially different
from fracture propagation in reservoirs without natural
fractures due to interaction between pre
fractures and the advancing hydraulic fracture. Also,
field observations of fracturing treatment in naturally
fractured reservoirs do not always support the concept of
the commonly accepted fracture propagation behavior
[2]. Experimental studies as well as mine
experiments [3, 4, 5, 6, 7] and the microseismic studies

ARMA 12-129

Hydraulic Fracture Propagation in Unconventional Reservoirs: The Role of
Natural fractures

Keshavarzi, R.
Young Researchers Club, Science and Research Branch,

Mohammadi, S. and Bayesteh, H.
School of Civil Engineering, University of

Copyright 2012 ARMA, American Rock Mechanics Association
This paper was prepared for presentation at
2012.
This paper was selected for presentation at the symposium by an ARMA Technical Program Committee based on a technical and cri
the paper by a minimum of two technical reviewers. The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any position of ARMA, its officers, or
members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper for commercial purposes without the wri
is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may n
abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgement of where and by whom the paper was presented.
ABSTRACT: Recovering hydraobarbon from unconventional reservoirs is always a challenge since it requires cost
fracture stimulation treatments to make production economic.
and the advancing hydraulic fracture is a key challenge
possible to recover hydrocarbons from these reservoirs.
hydraulic fracture path caused by natural fractures
another hand, the activation of natural fractures commonly found in shale reservoirs can create a network of connectivity wit
the reservoir and potentially improve the production
developed to investigate the hydraulic fracture
The results indicate that hydraulic fracture diversion as well as natural fracture activation takes places even several stage
intersection. Also, it is clearly observed that hydraulic and natural fracture behaviors after intersection are
the in-situ horizontal differential stress and the orientation of the natural fractures

Hydraulic fracturing is a widely used technology in
stimulation of unconventional reservoirs to obtain
re stimulation is an
important aspect of well completion in unconventional
reservoirs to unlock the hydrocarbon from low-
, basic information about
fractures such as the direction of fracture propagation
tures on hydraulic fracture
propagation as well as the rate of production are the
critical points while fracturing. Although hydraulic
fractures usually open in the direction of the minimum
and propagate perpendicular to this
but its been proven to be more complex than
initially thought [1]. Hydraulic fracture propagation in
the presence of natural fractures is substantially different
from fracture propagation in reservoirs without natural
pre-existing natural
fractures and the advancing hydraulic fracture. Also,
field observations of fracturing treatment in naturally
fractured reservoirs do not always support the concept of
the commonly accepted fracture propagation behavior
tal studies as well as mine-back
experiments [3, 4, 5, 6, 7] and the microseismic studies
recorded during hydraulic fracture treatments [8,9]
indicate the creation of a complex fracture pattern
geometry. Meanwhile, a thorough understanding of this
complex pattern is still lacking whereas complex fracture
patterns have significant consequences for the design of
the fracturing treatment and the conventionally used
proppant might not be able to be transported to the tip of
the fracture network [10, 11] due to
hydraulic and natural fracture which can lead to
premature screen-out. Recent years, have witnessed the
growing interest in the role of natural fractures in
hydraulic fracturing process and the productivity
increase. So, the industry has foc
activation of natural fractures commonly found in shale
reservoirs to create a network of connectivity within the
reservoir and improve the rate of production. In most
shales, however, the stress anisotropy can affect the
hydraulic fracture propagation behavior as well as
activation of natural fractures during stimulation
treatments. Hence, understanding the propagation of
hydraulic fractures through natural fractures is an
important issue during stimulation of unconventional
reservoirs where without fractures, it is not possible to
recover hydrocarbons from these reservoirs. One of the
main issues during hydraulic and natural fracture

129
Propagation in Unconventional Reservoirs: The Role of
Young Researchers Club, Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran.
ivil Engineering, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran
ARMA, American Rock Mechanics Association
This paper was prepared for presentation at the 46
th
US Rock Mechanics / Geomechanics Symposium
This paper was selected for presentation at the symposium by an ARMA Technical Program Committee based on a technical and cri
wo technical reviewers. The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any position of ARMA, its officers, or
members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper for commercial purposes without the wri
is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may n
abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgement of where and by whom the paper was presented.
hydraobarbon from unconventional reservoirs is always a challenge since it requires cost
fracture stimulation treatments to make production economic. Meanwhile, the interaction between pre
vancing hydraulic fracture is a key challenge especially in unconventional reservoirs, because without fractures, it is not
recover hydrocarbons from these reservoirs. During hydraulic fracture propagation, any diversion or abrupt change in
raulic fracture path caused by natural fractures, increases the possibility of premature screenout which leads to job failure. In
natural fractures commonly found in shale reservoirs can create a network of connectivity wit
production. In this study, an eXtended Finite Element Method (XFEM) model has been
developed to investigate the hydraulic fracture propagation and interaction with a natural fracture in unconventional reservoir
The results indicate that hydraulic fracture diversion as well as natural fracture activation takes places even several stage
intersection. Also, it is clearly observed that hydraulic and natural fracture behaviors after intersection are
situ horizontal differential stress and the orientation of the natural fractures.
recorded during hydraulic fracture treatments [8,9]
indicate the creation of a complex fracture pattern
geometry. Meanwhile, a thorough understanding of this
pattern is still lacking whereas complex fracture
patterns have significant consequences for the design of
the fracturing treatment and the conventionally used
proppant might not be able to be transported to the tip of
the fracture network [10, 11] due to interaction of
hydraulic and natural fracture which can lead to
out. Recent years, have witnessed the
n the role of natural fractures in
hydraulic fracturing process and the productivity
. So, the industry has focused more on the
activation of natural fractures commonly found in shale
reservoirs to create a network of connectivity within the
reservoir and improve the rate of production. In most
shales, however, the stress anisotropy can affect the
e propagation behavior as well as the
natural fractures during stimulation
treatments. Hence, understanding the propagation of
hydraulic fractures through natural fractures is an
important issue during stimulation of unconventional
where without fractures, it is not possible to
recover hydrocarbons from these reservoirs. One of the
main issues during hydraulic and natural fracture

Propagation in Unconventional Reservoirs: The Role of
Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran.
US Rock Mechanics / Geomechanics Symposium held in Chicago, IL, USA, 24-27 June
This paper was selected for presentation at the symposium by an ARMA Technical Program Committee based on a technical and critical review of
wo technical reviewers. The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any position of ARMA, its officers, or
members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper for commercial purposes without the written consent of ARMA
is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The
hydraobarbon from unconventional reservoirs is always a challenge since it requires cost-effective
interaction between pre-existing natural fractures
reservoirs, because without fractures, it is not
propagation, any diversion or abrupt change in
increases the possibility of premature screenout which leads to job failure. In
natural fractures commonly found in shale reservoirs can create a network of connectivity within
In this study, an eXtended Finite Element Method (XFEM) model has been
a natural fracture in unconventional reservoirs.
The results indicate that hydraulic fracture diversion as well as natural fracture activation takes places even several stages before
intersection. Also, it is clearly observed that hydraulic and natural fracture behaviors after intersection are strongly controlled by


interaction is whether the induced hydraulic fracture
crosses the natural fracture or turns into it and opens the
natural fracture and how the natural fracture can be
activated by the propagating hydraulic fracture before
and after intersection. In this way, several experimental
studies have been done [4, 5, 6] to account for the
interaction between hydraulic and natural fracture but
they have just given a general viewpoint due to
experiments results and they dont give any physical
explanation for the behaviors observed. In this study a
new approach for hydraulic fracture propagation and
intersection with natural fracture has been introduced
based on the eXtended Finite Element Method (XFEM).

2. DIFFERENT SCENARIOS FOR HYDRAULIC
AND NATURAL FRACTURE INTERACTION
Mainly, there are several scenarios for hydraulic and
natural fracture interaction which can be devided into
two main groups: crossing and opening. In crossing, the
propagating hydraulic fracture intersects the pre-existing
natural fracture and crosses it without any significant
change in its direction (Fig. 1).









Fig. 1. Propagating hydraulic fracture crosses the natural
fracture and keeps moving without any significant change in
its path.

In the second scenario, the advancing hydraulic fracture
will turn into the natural fracture and opens it (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Hydraulic fracture opens the natural fracture and
propagates along the natural fracture.
While the hydraulic fracture is propagating along the
natural fracture plane, it may extend to natural fracture
tip and propagate from the tip or it may cross the natural
fracture in a weak point somewhere along the natural
fracture. In addition, if the length of natural fracture is
high enough or shear slippage takes place, the risk of
hydraulic fracture arrest will increase. Although
basically induced hydraulic fracture may cross or open
the pre-existing natural fracture but a comprehensive
viewpoint about the interaction between hydraulic and
natural fractures hasnt yet been fully demonstrated
while getting a basic point of view about the physical
mechanisms of hydraulic and natural fractures
interaction seems to be so influential during stimulation
in naturally fractured reservoirs. One of the behaviors
which takes place during hydraulic fracturing in
naturally fractured reservoirs and has been seldom
discussed, is debonding of sealed natural fracture in the
near-tip region of a propagating hydraulic fracture before
fractures intersection (Fig. 3)[12].














Fig.3. Schematic view of natural fracture debonding prior to
intersection.

Debonding of natural fracture prior to intersection with
hydraulic fracture is due to tensile stress exerted ahead
of hydraulic fracture tip and if this stress is large enough,
it debonds the sealed natural fracture. Debonding is a
phenomenon which will activate the natural fracture
since the debonded natural fracture can be reopened by
the hydraulic fracture much easier than the bonded
natural fracture. In other words, as debonding takes
place, weak paths will be activated and the creation of
network of connectivity within the reservoir to improve
the productivity will be facilitated. In unconventional
reservoirs, especially in shale, the pre-existing natural
fractures characterization is in such a way that they act
as weak planes which can be activated while fracturing
[13].


Hydraulic fracture
Natural fracture
Debonded zone
Natural fracture
Hydraulic fracture
3. EXTENDED FINITE ELEMENT METHOD
eXtended Finite Element Method (XFEM) was
developed in 1999 [14] to help the shortcomings of the
conventional finite element method and has been used to
model the propagation of various discontinuities such as
cracks and fractures[15]. XFEM allows the
representation of discontinuities independently of the
mesh which leads to avoiding the remeshing in each step
of the fracture propagation as well as being able to
consider arbitrary varying geometry of fractures [12].
The idea of XFEM is that a part of the displacement
field is approximated by a discontinuous displacement
enrichment, hence the displacement field is
approximated by the sum of the regular displacement
field, which is the displacement without any
discontinuities, and the enrichment displacement field
(Eq.(1))[16]:

(1)



Where u
h
, u
FE
and u
ENR
are approximated displacement
field, conventional (continuous) and enriched
(discontinuous) parts of the displacement approximation,
respectively. General form of approximated
displacement by XFEM can be rewritten as below [16]:


(2)



where u
j
is the vector of regular degrees of nodal
freedom in the finite element method, N

is a shape
function, a
k
is the added set of degrees of freedom to the
standard finite element model and (x) is the
discontinuous enrichment function defined for the set of
nodes that the discontinuity has in its influence domain.

4. NUMERICAL PROCEDURE AND RESULTS
For simplicity, it is assumed that rock is a homogeneous
isotropic material and the fractures are propagating in an
elastic medium under plane strain and quasi-static
conditions by a constant and uniform net pressure
throughout the hydraulic fracture system. Also, for
fracture propagation an energy based criterion has been
considered which is energy release rate, G. Energy
release rate has been calculated by the J integral using
the domain integral approach [17] whereas J integral is
equivalent to the definition of the fracture energy release
rate, G, for linear elastic medium. If the energy release
rate, G, is greater than a critical value, G
c
, the fracture
will advance. At the point where hydraulic and natural
fracture intersect with eachother, G, is calculated for
both opening and crossing directions and the one that
has a higher value will show the hydraulic fracture
behavior after intersection. Also for any diversion
occurred as hydraulic fracture propagating toward the
natural fracture, the fracture propagation angle in each
step can be calculated as below [17]:

= 8
4
1
2tan
2
1 -
II
I
II
I
c
K
K
K
K




Where
c
is the fracture growth angle in the local
fracture-tip coordinate system. K
I
and K
II
are opening
and shearing mode stress intensity factors, respectively.
If K
II
= 0 then
c
= 0 (pure mode I) and if K
II
> 0, the
fracture growth angle
c
< 0, and if K
II
< 0, then
c
> 0.
In addition, the fracturing fluid pressure is included in
the model by putting force tractions on the necessary
degrees of freedom along the fracture. To detect the
debonded zone along the natural fracture, in each step of
fracture propagation, stresses are detected along the
natural fracture and wherever the stress becomes tensile,
its been considered as a debonded zone. So, a 2D
XFEM model has been developed to investigate the
hydraulic fracture propagation behavior in the presence
of a natural fracture. In the first step, to verify the
developed XFEM code Blantons experiments [4] have
been taken into account. For this purpose, Blantons
experiments have been modeled through a 2D XFEM
model and the results have been compared (Table 1)
which shows a good agreement.

Table 1. Comparing XFEM model results with Blanton
Experimens.
Natural
fracture
orientation
(
o
)
Horizontal
stresses
(psi)
Horizotal
differential
stress
(psi)
Type of interaction

Max

min

Max
-
min

Blanton
Experimens
[4]
XFEM
model
30 2755 1450 1305 opening opening
30 2900 725 2175 arrest opening
60 1740 1450 290 opening opening
60 2900 725 2175 crossing crossing
90 2030 725 1305 crossing crossing

As shown in Table 1, at low angle of approach opening
and at high angle of approach crossing is observed. At
medium angle of approach, opening and crossing both
are abserved depending on the differences between
horizontal stresses (horizontal differential stress).
(3)
Table 1, indicates that in Blantons experiments at 30
o
natural fracture orientation and high horizontal
differential stress, hydraulic fracture will be arrested in
the natural fracture while this is just the initial
interaction between the induced fracture and the natural
fracture, however, in reality with continued pumping of
the fluid, the hydraulic fracture may cross or open the
natural fracture that in this case due to the XFEM result,
the hydraulic fracture opens the natural fracture.
Experimental studies have just considered a few steps
before hydraulic and natural fracture intersection in
small blocks and they give just a general viewpoint
about hydraulic and natural fracture interaction while
this issue should be investigated in a reservoir scale
conditions. So, a reservoir-scale model has been
developed through a 2D XFEM approach in such a way
that the hydraulic fracture is propagating towards a
natural fracture which is 10m far from the wellbore with
the orientation of the 30
o
, 60
o
, 90
o
. Maximum horizontal
stress varies from 1159.4 to 2898.5 psi and minimum
horizontal stress and fracturing fluid pressure are 500 psi
and 2898.5 psi, respectively. Also Youngs modulus,
Poissons ratio and fracture toughness of the reservoir
rock are 4*10
6
psi, 0.25 and 0.75 MPa.m
1/2
respectively.
The results indicate that natural fracture debonding and
activation takes place several meters before intersection
with the advancing hydraulic fracture (Fig. 4). As it can
be clearly observed in Fig. 4, natural fracture debonding
for low angles of approach takes palce sooner than
medium and high angles of approach. Meanwhile, as
soon as debonding of natural fracture gets started, the
propagating hydraulic fracture is diverted from its
original path; hence the hydraulic fracture doesnt
intersect with the pre-existing natural fracture in a
straight line which is illustrated in Fig. 5 for low to high
angles of approach. To investigate the hydraulic and
natural fracture interaction in detail, Fig.6 depicts the
hydraulic fracture behavior from the beginning of
debonding for low angle of approach. As it can be seen
in Fig. 6, debonding and activation of natural fracture
induced by the propagating hydraulic fracture gets
started around 5m far from the natural fracture and some
part of the natural fracture that has been debonded in the
previous steps may become closed in the next steps of
hydraulic fracture propagation due to stresses exerted by
the advancing hydraulic fracture. In addition, Fig. 6
illustrates how the length and the position of the
debonded zone can affect the hydraulic fracture
propagation behavior. Also, if enough attention is paid to
the debonded zone at the intersection point (as shown in
Fig. 6) one can easily conclude that the at low angles of
approach, the debonded zone is in such a way that
hydraulic fracture will be diverted into natural fracture
and natural fracture will be activated and opened by the
growing hydraulic fracture. The stress maps can be
found in Fig. 7 that can clearly demonstrate the stress
exerted ahead of hydraulic fracture tip to the natural
fracture which makes it debonded and activated. To
understand the role of horizontal differential stress on
hydraulic fracture diversion before intersecting with
natural fracture, a natural fracture with the orientation of
60
o
has been considered and horizontal differential stress
varies from 434.7 to 2173.9 psi (Fig. 8). As shown in
Fig. 8, any increase in horizontal differential stress can
result in hydraulic fracture diversion decrease.
Fig. 4. Initial step of debonding (highlighted in green) and activation of natural fracture as hydraulic fracture is advancing
toward it, in a reservoir scale XFEM model for a natural fracture with orientation of 30
o
(horizontal differential
stress=2173.9 psi), 60
o
(horizontal differential stress=1159.4 psi), 90
o
(horizontal differential stress=2173.9 psi).































Fig. 5. Hydraulic fracture diversion before intersecting with the pre-existing natural fracture in a reservoir scale XFEM
model for a natural fracture with orientation of 30
o
(horizontal differential stress=2173.9 psi), 60
o
(horizontal differential
stress=1159.4 psi), 90
o
(horizontal differential stress=2173.9 psi).

Fig. 6. Hydraulic fracture and natural fracture behaviors as hydraulic fracture is propagating toward the pre-existing natural
fracture and intersects with it (natural fracture with orientation of 30
o
(horizontal differential stress=2173.9 psi)). The upper
images show the debonded zone in each step and the images below them are the numerical deformed configurations
(magnified by 20).

Fig. 8. Comparing the diversion of hydraulic fracture before intersecting with a 60
o
oriented natural fracture in a different
horizontal differential stresses and specific fracturing pressure. Horizontal differential stress =2173.9 psi, 1152.4 psi and
434.78 psi for the left, middle and right images respectively at 2898.5 psi fracturing pressure.



























































Fig. 7. Stress maps (magnified by 20) for hydraulic and natural fracture behaviors as hydraulic fracture is propagating
toward the pre-existing natural fracture and intersects with it (natural fracture with orientation of 30
o
(horizontal differential
stress=2173.9 psi)).

5. CONCLUSIONS
Fracture stimulation is required to make the production
of unconventional resources economically viable and
more efficient. Meanwhile, the behavior of the hydraulic
fracture in vicinity of a pre-existing natural fracture as
well as natural fracture activation is of concern in
effective reservoir stimulation and production processes.
Therefore, a new 2D XFEM approach was developed to
deal with hydraulic and natural fracture interaction and
demonstrated the role of the influential parameters on
this mechanism. A new mechanism called debonding of
natural fracture due to interaction with the propagating
hydraulic fracture was successfully demonstrated which
can be a key factor to explain almost all of the behaviors
observed during hydraulic and natural fracture
interaction. It was shown that hydraulic fracture
diversion as well as natural fracture activation begins
several stages before intersection which is controlled by
the length and the position of the debonded zone along
the natural fracture prior to intersection, natural fracture
orientation and horizontal differential stress. It was
clearly observed that at high angles of approach,
hydraulic fracture diversion and natural fracture
activation is less than low angles of approach. Also, in a
constant fracturing pressure and angle of approach,
increasing the horizontal differential stress leads to
decrease in hydraulic fracture diversion. The
observations suggest more focus on hydraulic fracture
diversion and natural fracture activation even before
intersection, prior to fracturing job to prevent any failure
caused by any change or diversion in hydraulic fracture
path and optimize the treatment outcome.

REFERENCES
1. Wright, C.A., Weijers, L., Davis, E.J., Mayerhofer,
M., Understanding Hydraulic Fracture Growth:
Tricky but not Hopeless, SPE 56724 presented at the
1999, Houston, Oct. 3-6, 1999.


2. Potluri N, Zhu D, Hill AD. Effect of natural fractures
on hydraulic fracture propagation. SPE 94568,
presented at the SPE European formation damage
Conference, Scheveningen, Netherlands, 2527 May
2005.

3. Lamont, N and Jessen, F. 1963. The Effects of
Existing Fractures in Rocks on the Extension of
Hydraulic Fractures. Journal of Petroleum
Technology, 15, 203-209.


4. Blanton, T.L. 1982. An Experimental Study of
Interaction Between Hydraulically Induced and Pre-
Existing Fractures. Presented at the SPE/DOE
unconventional Gas Recovery Symposium,
Pennsylvania, 16-18 May.

5. Warpinski, N.R and Teufel, L.W. 1987. Influence of
Geologic Discontinuities on Hydraulic Fracture
Propagation. Journal of Petroleum Technology, 39,
209-220.

6. Zhou, J., Chen, M., Jin, Y. and Zhang, G. 2008.
Analysis of fracture propagation behavior and
fracture geometry using a tri-axial fracturing system
in naturally fractured reservoirs. International
Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences, 45,
11431152.

7. Athavale, A.S. and Miskimins, J.L. 2008. Laboratory
Hydraulic Fracturing Tests on Small Homogeneous
and Laminated Blocks. 42nd US Rock Mechanics
Symposium and 2nd U.S.-Canada Rock Mechanics
Symposium, San Francisco, June 29-July 2.

8. Cipolla, C., Petreman, F., Creegan, T., McCarley, D.,
Effect of Well Placement on Production and Frac
Design in a Mature Tight Gas Field, SPE 95337
presented at the 2005 SPE Annual Conference and
Exhibition, Dallas, Texas, October 9-12, 2005.


9. Daniels, J., Waters, G., LeCalvez, J., Lassek, J. and
Bentley, D. (2007) Contacting More of the Barnett
Shale Through an Integration of Real-Time
Microseismic Monitoring, Petrophysics, and
Hydraulic Fracture Design, In Proceedings of SPE
Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition,
Anaheim, California, U.S.A, 11-14 November 2007.

10. Daneshy, A. (2003) Off-balance growth: A new
concept in hydraulic fracturing, Journal of Petroleum
Technology, 55, 4, April 2003: 78-85.

11. Zhang, X. and Jeffrey, R. G. (2006) The role of
friction and secondary flaws on deflection and re-
initiation of hydraulic fractures at orthogonal pre-
existing fractures, Geophysical Journal International,
166: 1454-1465.

12. Dahi Taleghani, A., J. Olson, 2009, Analysis of
multistranded hydraulic fracture Propagation: an
improved model for the interaction between induced
and natural fractures, SPE 124884.

13. Gale, J.F.W., Reed, R.M. and Holder, J. 2007.
Natural fractures in the Barnett Shale and their
importance for hydraulic fracture treatments, AAPG
Bulletin, 91, 603-622.

14. Mos, N., Dolbow, J. and Belytschko, T. 1999. A
finite element method for crack growth without
remeshing. International Journal for Numerical
Methods in Engineering 46 (1): 131150.

15. Daux, Ch., Mos, N., Dolbow, J.E., Sukumar, N. and
Belytschko, T. 2000. Arbitrary branched and
intersecting cracks with the extended finite element
method. International Journal For Numerical
Methods In Engineering, 48, 17411760.


16. Mohammadi, S. 2008. Extended finite element
method for fracture analysis of structure. Blackwell
Publishing, UK.

17. Moran B, Shih CF. 1987. A general treatment of
crack tip contour integrals. International Journal of
Fracture, 35:295-310.