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bhcussion of Examination of a Cored Hydraulic

Fracture In a Deep Gas Well


SPE, Dowell Schltdmberger

Warpinski et al. document information found from a core through
a formation after a hydraulic fracture treatment, As they indicate,
the core provides the first detailed evaluation of an actual propped
hydraulic fracture away from the well and at a significant depth,
and this evaluation leads to findings that deviate substantially from
the assumptions incorporated into current fracturing models. In this
discussion, a defense of current fracture design assumptions is developed. The affirmation of current assumptions, for generat industry applications, is based on an assessment of the global impact
of the local complexity found in the core. The assessment leads
to recommendations for the evolution of fracture design practice.
A&r reading Warpinski et aLs paper, I wished that the information and supporting detail in it could be ignored. The paper
seemed to be another in a recent series of publications contradicting a simpler understanding of fracturing that has been applied successfully over the past 15 years, However, the information cannot
be ignored and must be reconciled with experience and practice.
The reconciliation exercise has led to a deep appreciation of the
papers significance. The paper is based on direct evidence from
a fracture system vs. assumed complexity of behavior; moreover,
as implied in the paper and amplified here, the in-situ conditions
approach the most unfavorable case for the successful application
of fracturing. This adverse environment permitted many complexities of the fracturing process to be activated, captured in the core,
and documented thoroughly in the paper.
Therefore, the paper, along with the companion documentation 1
of the extensive data obtained before, during, and after the fracture treatment, provides precisely what is required to enlighten any
physical process and to assess any process m xleling: A comprehensive description of an example that approaches the worst case.
Therefore. the sum of this and the companion paper must be considered an important contribution to the fracturing literature. The
technical assessment provided here and leading to the chwsitication of a worst case is supported by field experience the core
is from the Ienticular portion of the Mesaverde formation, which
is infamous as one of the relatively few sand formations where hydraulic fracturing is not routinely applied successfully (that is why
the formation was selected for the U.S. DOE MWX experiments).
If the paper is viewed from the perspective of a worst case, the
reconciliation process leads to a somewhat different assessment of
current practice than the paper implies. The worst-case perspective, as outtined here, provides the basis to affirm many aspects
of the simple design models currently used and to question many
recent concerns related to tip processes, branching fractures, and
abnormrd pressures. The fact that the fracture treatment was placed
as designed without an indication of a screenout and with an average proppant concentration near the median for treatments industrywide supports this optimistic assessment of current design -models.
The remainder of this discussion consists of three primary sections, The Background section provides the basis for classi$ing
the in-situ eondhions as approaching a worst case. That section also
considers, in some detail, the role of effective stress in providing
complexity (which was very important in this case) and defines a
complexity index for assessing other formations. The title of the
second section, Additional Interpretation, implies both a general
agreement with the papers interpretation of the events causing the
specific information found in the core and extensions of these interpretations. The extensions provide a basis for an optimistic
assessment of current fracture design models, even with the level
of complexity found. The final section, Assessment of Design Practices, indicates that future activity should not overemphasize additions model complexity but should be direcled primarily at the
maturation of the engineering practice related to hydraulic fracturSPE production& Facilities,August 1993

irw. The modeling section also discusses the different roles. for desi~n (application) and analysis (understanding) models. The assessment provided here is from the perspective of design models, or
a global scale, and is relatively optimistic; the papers assessment
is more from the perspective of analysis models, or a local scale,
and indicates that much remains to understand on this scale.
This section provides the background for the concision that the
in-situ conditions of the cored formation approach a worst-case corrdition for effective hydraulic fracturing. This section also discusses the important role that effective stress plays for this case and
introduces a basis for assessing the relative complexity to be expected for a specific formation.
Formation Characteristics. The formation has many noteworthy
aspects. These aspects, either cited in the paper or developed here,
are outlined below. The reservoir is composed of sections with the
following characteristics,
1. They are discontinuous on a scale smaller than the desired fracture length for a tight gas formation.
2. They are laterally surrounded by higher-stress sediments that
limit effective fracture placement beyond the sand sections intersected by the well and lead to increased pressure when the fracture
is restricted at the section boundary.
3. The sections contain layers of coal and clay-rich sediments
that piovide extreme deviations from the general assumption of
quasielastic and homogeneous formations.
4. They contain a significant microcrack structure aligned about
15 from the stress direction for the fracture azimuth, This structure provides a large permeability anisotropy in the least favorable
direction for production and most favorable direction for fracture
5. They have an abnormally low effective-stress environment for
a relatively deep formation that promotes multiple fracture strands
and limits the fracturing net pressure for efficient placement.
6, These limits on net pressure are coupled with a relatively large
moduhss/sand thickness ratio, E/l?, resulting in a relatively large
net pressure that promotes complexity and inefficient stimulation
for the long fractures required in a tight gas reservoir.
In summary, any one of these six characteristics could be an obstacle to efficient fracture placement and/or effective stimulation.
The combination of all these characteristics in one formation leads
to much of the complexity recorded in the core. AMroughthis combination could be anticipated for other overpressured, discontinuous reservoirs, it is atypical of most reservoirs requiring stimulation,
For a complete perspective, additional complicating factors for fracture placement that b nor apply for the cored formations are the
7. Extreme horizontal thrusting leads to nearly equal vertical and
minimum horizontal stresses and to no preferred fracture orientation about the axis of the minimum stress.
8. Significant deviation between the preferred fracture plane and
the welllmre leads to near-well connectivity problems and resuhs
from a deviated well arrd/or deviated stress field (e.g., from a nearby
fault with a vertical shear com~nent).
Effective Stress. Although effective stress governs rock mechanical faihsre, it seldom is considered explicitly in fracture design and
requires attention before assessment of the specific information contained in the core. Effective stress, Ue, is the difference between
the total normal stress (c= force/area) and the pore pressure, p:
Ue=u-p. A negative value of Ue is necessary to propagate a hydraulic fracture, For a hydraulic fracture, the equivalent p is the



hydraulic-fluid pressure, which generally increases for vertical frac- the specific conditions aod, for the purposes of defining Fc, was
tures that are longer than their height, as in the case reported in se!eeted as 2w/T = 0,02 ft. The precise value selected for w is not
the paper, The increasing pressure and associated effects cause a critical because the intended role of Fc is to give a reiative indication of behavior for different in-situ conditions. For the formation
general reduction in the effective stresses surrounding the fracture
and ivmce an environment for fracturing complexity. More speeif- cored, Fc can be obtained with E = 3,7 x 106 psi, uev=2,000 psi,
icaliy, 2 as the fluid pressure approaches the barrier stress, height and he= 40 ft. This he value for the two sands can be obtained
growth occurs; or when the filtrate pressure exceeds the overbureither from the sand thickness for the individual zones (assuming
den stress, horizontal fracture planes accompany the primary ver- that each retains some height confinement) or as one-half the gross
tical fracture; or when the filtrate pressure in a fisswe exceeds the thicknxs of both sections including the interbedded shaie/coai section (=80 ft) Imxursc, for an interbedded high-stress zone, the gross
stress on the fissure, an auxiliary fracture begins in the fissure.
Therefore, complexity is added as the fluid pressure exceeds vari- section stiffness (E/h) is increased by a factor of about two. 4.5
For these ~~~, the resulting FCvalue is i .2. This value can be
ous thresholds defined by the stresses surrounding the fracture. For
the normal geological setting, the vertical overburden stress, Uv, compared with tight gas formations, whkh permit successful fracis the maximum in-situ stress and provides an upper bound for these turing with some undesirable effects4,5e.g., the lower Cotton
threshold stresses. The tluid pressure must exceed the minimum Valley in cast Texas with height growth (FC=0.32 for E =6x 106
psi, Uev= S,OiMlpsi, and he =75 ft) and the Wattenberg Muddy-J
horizontal stress, UH,to initiate the fracturing process. Therefore
the range of the fluid pressure, pf, for any of the thresheids is AP=
in central Colorado with fissure opening (Fc= 0,40 for E= 3 x lob
UY- UHand, from the deftition of net pressure (Apf =p@, pro- psi, Ue= S,000 psi, and Ire= 30 ii). These values provide a calibravides its general range for crossing all thresholds.
tion of a threshold vaiue of Fc = 0.3S for the beginning of complex behavior in quasielastic, homogeneous, and laterally continuous
When the in-situ stress state and the expected net pressures (e.g.,
from a minifracture) are known, the assessment for exceeding var- reservoirs. An important attribute of F= for assessing fracturing
ious thresholds F~omes straightfonvard. However, while the difficulty, as defined by E!q. D-1, is that the defining parameters
horizontal stresses generally are not known, particularly for all the generidly can be estimated from readily availabie datareservoir
barrier formations, an up~r limit on the pressure range can be es- pressure and logs (overburden, section freights,and lithology/porositimated from generally available information (overburden stress and ty to estimate E)before a fracture design is begun. Obviously,
if the actual value of Ap,V is known for the formation from a
p). These data provide the effective vertical stress, Uev=av-p.
Becauw OHap, Uevprovides the maximum range for the net pres- minifracture, the preferred definition of Fe wouid be ApW/uev
sure (i.e., Apfs Uv-p) to surpass all the thresholds. The range using the known vaiue of ApW.
can be reduced by using Hubbert and WiliisJ postulate of inIn summary, tlds evaluation of the effective stress indicates that
cipient failure for normal faulting. For sandstones, this postulate
low effective stress promotes complex behavior, the cored forroaprecikts the lowest permitted value for the effective horizontal stress, tion has about one-half the effective stress for a normaiiy pressured
Oef/=uev/3, from which 2uev/3 =uev-ue~=u~OH(noting that reservoir at the same depth, the low effective stress is coup?ed with
the difference in effective stresses is the same as the difference in a relatively high net pressure, and the combination of the two eftotal stresses). Therefore, for the conditions described, the net pres- fects results in an index of FC about three times greater than tight
sure for exceeding all thresholds normaliy is bounded by either the gas formations, permitting successful fracturing at the threshold
effective overburden stress, Uev, in general, or by 2uev/3 for sand- of undesired complexity.
stones. For relative comparison of formations, the multiple of Uev
used is not critical. The critical aspect is that the net pressure range Addltlonal Interpretation
is bounded by a multiple of Uevand that a high value of Uev en- This section addresses various aspects of the information found in
hances simple and efficient fracture growth while a low value in- the core and the potential implicationsfor fracturing. The more notecreases the likelihood that the net pressure would exceed one or worthy observations from the cored fracture systems, which differ
more thresholds for complex and inefficient propagation.
from the current modeling assumptions, were multiple and ciosely
For nominal overburden and pore-pressure conditions, the gra- spsced fracture strands that potentially cause a large process zone,
dient of Uev is about 0.6 psi/ft. For the cored formation at 7,100
itbnormal fracturing pressures, and altered proppant transport; fracft, the overburden is 7,400 psi (1.04 psi/ft), the pressure is S,400 ture offsets at bedding planes with potential effects on height groti;
psi (0,76 psi/ft), and uev=2,000 psi (0.28 psi/ft), which is less and intersection of a fracNre system far away from the expected
than one-half the nominal vrdue. Thhi implies that the Uev that direction, The misplaced fracture was correctiy characterized in
limits the net pressure for efticient fracturing is abnO~dliy low the paper as $more disturbing than the multiple fractures.
for this depth and makes the formation equivalent to a much shallower one (i.e., at 3,300 ft for normrd gradients). For this sand- Misplaced Fracture. The misplaced fracture was found within the
stone formation, the role of Uevis confirmed by the Hubbert-Willis section of core called HF-2 and is in the upper sand section (Zone
4). The HF-2 system was found with fracture strands in the prereiation. The relation gives ue~ =2,000/3=670
psi, or
UH=670-FS,4Mt=6,070 psi. The two closure-pressure tests ferred N65W direction but offset about 60 ft and 90 south from
the expected iocation of intersection. The intersection was also apindkated I S,900 and 6,100 psi, respectively.
I @ potential adveme condition of a low-effective-stress envi- proximately southwest of the originating weil (Well MWX-1, see
ronment is accentuated by relatively thin sand sections and a moder- Fig. 3), The paper provides four potential explanations for the iocation of HF-2. Another potentiai explanation, with supporting eviately high modulus, which result in relatively high net pressure.
To assess the combination of effective stress and net pressure gener- dence, comes from Fig. 2, which shows some seismic events during
ally, a factor for complex behavior, Fe, is defined as a nominal Minifracture 1 along a southwesthortheast iine, which is the apvalue of net pressure divided by Uep For the general case of frac- proximate direction from Well MWX-1 to the intersection locature lengths greater than the section height, the net pressure at the tion. In addition, th: companion paperl shows that the underlying
well, ApW, is given by the Perkins-Kem-Nordgren (PKN) relation sand (Zone 3) is a channel sand about 3S0 ft wide and 28 ft thick
with the charnels central axis along the same southwestinortheast
in terms of the average width over the height, w
direction and approximately intersecting Well MWX-I. This reApW=(2w/@(E/h e,) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (D-1) .suits in the coincidence of the required direction for the path to
the misplaced fracture, reexxding of seismic events along this path,
and the central axis of the underlying channel sand also approxiand Fc==
mately intersecting Well MWX-I, Many combinations of events
and mechanical behavior could occur over geological time and enfor 2w/x=O.02 ft. where E =plane-strain modulus and vironmental changes to create a natural fracture system along the
he =effeetive section height (in feet) for net pressure. For normal boundary and through the central axes of the channel sand. The
condhions, the fracture width tends to be relatively insensitive to bases for a fracture system resuit because, along its axis, the chan160

SPE Production& Facilities,August 1993

.,. .

.! ~,,,,

nel sand is a 2D inclusion with dlfferhtg thermal, poroehsstic,plastic,

and viscous properties from the surrounding shales and coals. In
addition, the associated 2D principal-stress proje@ion~align with
the 2D cross-sectional axes. For these classic conditions of stress
concentrators at the axes of an inclusion, a region of reduced stress
for guiding a hydraulic fracture in the overlying formation could
be expected along the channels central axis. The subsequent reorientation of HF-2, toward the globat minimum-stress direction
with an offset from the primary fracture by about 60 ft, is consistent with the stress perturbation effects provided in the paper.
In summary, this explanation for I-IF-2irsdkatesthat its anomalous
location results from local stress field perturbations caused by the
discontinuous reservoir sections, and similar results would be less
common in more continuous sedimentary sequences. A local stress
magnitude and direction change, another complicating factor for
Ienticular reservoirs, was not included in the list of formation characteristics,

should be expeeted to have penetrated the shale/coal section during the subsequent minifractures and stimulation treatments with
higher rate, higher viscosity, higher volume, and the resulting higher
In summary, this premise for two primary fractures within HF-1
is equivalent to that for the multiple-injection case and internally
consistent between HF- 1 and HF-2; i.e., excluding the shear fractures because of the interface, each primary fracture is composed
of about 10 fracture strands extending laterally over about 1 ft. The
shear fractures from the pinch point would not be expceted within
the central porlion of the pay section, which would dominate the
lateral extension, but are associated with vertical height growth
through a stress barrier.
Tip Effect From Multiple Strands. For assessing the effect of
multiple fracture strands, the assumption for the range in this case
is from about 10 strands over about 1 ft to about 30 strands over
<3 ft. The most general characterization of fracturing resistance
is the Griffith specific surface energy, y,providing the energy dissipated by creating a unit area of surface. This energy criterion is
related to the more commordy used critical stress-intensity factor,
K/c, of linear-fracture mechanics by the proportionality KIC=
(2E7)~, Therefore, for a first-order approximate n, multiple
strand and area creation would increase KICby the factor n ~ for
n strands over the value of a single fracture plane. For the cases
of 10 and 30 strands, the increase would be a factor of 3 to 5.S
times a nominal vahre of KIC= 1,000 psi-in,~ This increase in the
intrinsic value of Klc is about equal to or less than the value of the
apparent Klc, Ku, expceteds from the sum of the intrinsic value
and that for the fluid lag region. Hence, it provides no more than
the expected resistance for a single fracture subjected m the fluid
lag requirement. To assess the most severe case, using a factor of
5.5, K would be about 6,000 psi-in. M For an assumed semiradial Cap$at the tip of a fracture that is relatively long compared with
the height (i.e., a PKN fracture), the net pressure within the tip
cap, API, can be approximated by the classic equation for a radial
fracmre. For this application, the radius R=12/2 = 20 ft=240 in.
for both Zones 3 and 4 with the expectation that the zones are not
connected at the fracture tips. Hence,

HowMimy Fractures? The paper identifies multiple injections as

a potentisd cause for the numerous fracture strands. The potential
of increased fracture resistance after closing on polymer faltercakes,
and a basis for creating additional fracturing for subsequent injutions, can be supported from experiments at the DOE Nevada
Test Site. For these experiinents, pressure and width along a fracture were measured for multiple injections of water followed by
gel. The experiments indicated a significant increase in the fracture width in the tip region (i.e., resistance to fracture propagation) following the first and seeond injections of gel but no increase
following the previous water injections. The experiments also conclusively demonstrated the fluid lag region, which is discussed later
and was postulated in the first hydraulic fracture modeling paper. 7
This multiple-injection premise is supported by the number of fracture strands withii I-I F-1
and HF-2. HF-2, with seismic evidence
indicating one activation with gel, contains eight fracture strands;
HP-1 (on the preferred fracture direction), being activated three
times with gel, contains 30 fracture strands. This indicates about
10 fracture strands per gel injcetion, The premise also is consistent with the lateral extent of fracture strands observed for the two
fracture systems: 2.3 ft for HF-1 and 0.85 ft for HF-2 (corrected
for the 55 well deviation and ignoring the first strand in HF-2,
which is relatively far from the others).
Another premise consistent with the details of HF- 1 and I-IF-2
results from the core intersecting HF-I near the interface of the
This estimate of the tip net pressure to extend a fracture is conshale/coal section dividing the two sand sections (Zones 3 and 4).
The interfa~ is an area of significant variations in mechanical prop- sistent with the vrdues of net pressure (40+3psi) for the two water
erties and stress magnitudes. The larger stresses of the shale/coal
injections used to determine closure pressure 1 (after adjusting for
section lead to a pinch point within the fracture of reduced lo- the 200-psi closure-pressure increase for the second injection). The
cal width and enhanced shear stresses within the formation. Evi- similarity of vaks, from Eq. D-2 and the injections, provides credidence of large shear effects comes from the observed shear features bility that the predicted value of Apt is approximately correct. The
of 60 dipping and echelon fracture strands (shown in Fig. 6). The wellbore net pressure, ApW,for the stimulation when proppant be60 dip is cquivatent to a 30 angle from the fracture plane and gan was about 1$X)0psi and gives a value of Ap$ApW=0.35; a
the angle prefemd for shear failure witldn a sandstone. Also, shear value >0.45 is required to achieve an effect from the tip pressure
features are expected on both sides of a dominant fracture. 13xami- of more than 5 % on either the value of ApWor the averaged width
nation of Fig, 6 indicates that the shear features (dipping and eche- profile for the PKN-type fracture applicable to this case. 9 This
lon strands) account for 11 of the 30 strands witldmHF-2, and from small effect for a value of Ka = 6,000 psi-in. M is consistent with
the spacing and intensity of the shear features, the core results sug- a numerical analysis of tip effects. 10
In summary, the analysis indicates that even with the upper limit
gest that only two primary fractures are located near the two natural fractures. The observation that shear features are not seen or of 30 fracture strands, the resistance to fracturing is within the exreported for HF-2, which was located near the center of Zone 4, pected range for a fluid lag with a nominal value of K], and a sinsupporta the suggestion that these shear features occur primarily
gle fracture, and that the resulting tip pressure has a practically
at the intersection of major bedding features. Hence abut onetldrd
negligible effect on the pressure and width for the stimulation. Thk
of the HF-I fracture strands may result because the core intersec- conclusion is supported by the net pressure log-log plots 1 during
tion was at the interface. An explanation for two primary fracture the two minifractures and the stimulation that showed slopes >0.2.
systems is that the interface of the shalekoal section, between the When the tip pressure provides a meaningful effectg on the net
two sand sections, could have been penetrated by separate frac- pressure or width for a long fracture, the log-log slope is much
tures from each sand (i.e., ffom below and above). Separate frac- less than 0.2.
tures for the two sections, and into the shale, are credible in general
and more likely in this case because of the proximity to the well Are Many Fracture Strands Typical? The following discussion
and prior water injections. The low-rate, low-viscosity, high41uid- indicates that the large number of fracture strands found is atypi10SSwater injections should result in contained fractures terminat- cal and resulted from the coupling of ttvo special conditions for
ing in the shalekoal section and laterally extendkg beyond the point the formation cored. These are that the formation is overpressured,
of intersection of the core. The separate and contained fractures as previously discussed, and that the formation consists of


SPE Production& Facilities,August 1993


microcrtscks aligned nearly parallel with the fracture dketion. The

intensity of cracks is both large and well-aligned, m indicated by
the reported large permeabdity anisotropy. The overpressure for
the horizontal minimum stress of 5,900 psi results in a relatively
low minimum effective stress of UeH=500 psi (5,900-5,400 psi)
or a gradient of 500/7,lMt=O.07 psi/ft. This gradient is about onethird the nominal value (0.63 -0.43=0.2 psilft). The stress change
in front of an elastic crack is given by


two very different formations (Mesaverde~ight gas sand and the

Bakersfield tight oil diatornhe) do not provide the requirements for
an extensive process or dilation zone. The evidence is that these
zones, requiring ccre-detectable fractures, extend no more than
several feet and are not associated with a cloud of seismic activity.

Abnormal Fracturing Pressure. The prior sections indicate no

evidence, from analysis or the log-log slope of the pressure, that
the net pressures observed were influenced by the tip behavior re. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (D-3)
Au= - KJ~,
sulting from multistrandcd fractures or a large process zonei.e.,
where r=distance in front of the crack. For the scoping analysis the abnormally high pressure indicated in the paper. Another proposed mechanism for abnormally high pressure and width is dilahere, accepting the psssible deviations from an elastic crack tip,
tion near the fracture tip.4 The large number of fracture strands
F will be assumed also to provide the approximate extent of Au normrd to the fracture direction. From Eq. U-3, the region in front for the cored formation provides the potential for dilation, i.e., a
specific volume increase in the rock that would be analogous to
of the crack where the effective stress is negative, r. (i.e.,
an increase in temperature or pore pressure (poroelasticity), leadiAui a ae~), resulting in opening of microcracks, becomes
ing to an increase in closure pressure, An assessment of ddation
from the assumption of about 10 fracture strands through
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. (D-4)
the central portion of the sand sections (i.e., from HF-I being two
2X Uen
primary fractures and without the shear features) and from the 200Therefore, the extent of the negative-effective-stress region for mesh ( =OJ103-in.) crushed sand found in some strands, The crushed
opening microcracks and causing multiple strands is inversely
sand provides an estimate of the residual width for the strands, which
proportional to the square of the in-situ effective stress for a con- would lead to an increase in closure pressure. Eq. D-1 for ApW
stant vahse of Ka. For Ka =6,000 psi-in.~ and ueH=500 psi, I@
defines the closure-pressure change from the dilated width of 10
D-4 gives r.= 24 in. =2 ft (the approximate lateral extent of frac- strands: 10xO.003 =0.03 in. =0.0025 ft. For the previously used
tbre strands observed in the core), If the reservoir hadnormrd pres- values of E (3,7 x106 psi) and height (40 ft), the closure-pressure
sure and stress conditions for this depth, Uen would be three times change is found to be 150 psi. The observation 1 of a closureIarger and r. = 3 in., with a probable similar reduction in the numb- pressure change from 5,900 psi to 6,100 psi after the first step-rate
er of fracture strands. Without the highly anisotropic microcrack
test is consistent with this estimate of dilation-induced closurestructure nearly aligned with the fracture direction, the number of pressure increase. However, the inferred magnitude of a potential
strands created also would likely he reduced to one or two. The tip dilation effect must be qualified by the number of strands and
important role of an anisotropic structure for producing multiple the actual effect on fracture width. Three consecut ive water-injecstrands is supported from a core through a very shallow (50 to 90 tion/cIosure-pressure tests4~5in the Cotton Valley reservoir with
ft) hydraulic fracture. ]1 Point-load tests on core sections indicat- IJev= 5,000 psi did not indicate detectable closure-pressure change.
ed no preferred direction of failure, and the core through the hy- This is consistent with the expectation that, for this range of U&y,
draulic fracture indicated only one strand, even for this extremely one or two strands are likely, which would provide a change of
shalow and low-effective-stress case.
about 20 psi or less. Further, there has been no demonstration that
In summary, this review of the extent of fracture strands indi- a change in closure pressure at the tip would provide a meaningful
cates that the large number of stswndsfound in the core probably increase in width, whereas the analogous poroelastic closureresults from low effective stress and an optimally aiigned micro- pressure increase has been shown is to have no appreciable effect
structure. This combination also should be anticipated for coals on width, only an increase in total pressure equal to the closure(which contain a significant rdigned structure) at shallow depths.
pressure change (no appreciable net-pressure change).
Note that the intensity of multiple strands for the cored fortnation
The generality of abnormal pressure to provide increased width
and the mineback experiments (with even lower effective stress) and less penetration than predicted by standard design models, as
cited in the paper as the norm vs. the exception has been ob- postulated by Warpinski et aL arid others, 14is contradicted by the
interpretation 13 from the diatomite core. This interpretation led to
served ordy in relatively low-effective-stress environments. Further, another core experiment for extremely low effective stress core evidence for propped fracture penetrations of at least 710 and
without a microstructure found only one fracture strand,
1,200 ft vs. the design model prediction of 350 ft; i.e., propped
fractures were substantially larger than the design model used in
Evidence for a Large Proem Zone. Although the number of frac- dds case. Note that there is no direct (from core) evidence that fracture strands within HF-1 is large, they extend over <3 ft. even ture penetration is substantially less than prdlcted by standard statethough seismic activity was recorded over a lateral extent of 50 of-the-art design models.
to 70 ft. This observation is important for interpreting seismic acThe subject paper also discusses multiple strands producing intivity as an implication of a wide zone affecting the frac- creased flow resistance along the fracture and leading to increased
turing process and the pressure to propagate a fracture. Ref. 12 net pressure by a factor s n M. The n % factor assumes that each
suggested that a flhft seismic cloud along a fracture in a diatomite fracture has an equal width. This higher energy state,. [elative to
formation near Bakersfield, CA, at 1,700 ft provides evidence of one dominant fracture, would seem to be an u table condition for
a large process zone (an area of significant nonelastic deformation), any appreciable distance and requires additional investigation. The
A recent Paperls reports the results of a core through propped frac- Re-Examination of the Pahtdal Treatment section discusses four
tures from five wells in an offset diatomite field at a depth of about analyses to account for the elevated pressure observed during the
2,200 ft (i.e., also low effkctive stress). In total, seven propped treatment. Inch.tding the credible higher stress for the shale/coal
fractures and two nonpropped fractures were recorded in the core section between the two sands and excluding the need to restrict
over a horizontal distance of about 150 ft, an average of about two the ultimate height growth for the latter portion of the treatments
fractures per fracture treatment, The largest lateral extent for frac- (i.e., independent of the channel resistance), several ansdyses seem
tures from the same well was <2 ft. The number of fracture strands, to imply that the adjustment required for net pressure was a factor
or the extent per treatment, could be smaUer beeause fractures dip of about 25% or iess (e.g., equivalent to doubling the viscosity).
about 150 from vertical in thk tieId and multistage treatments are If this implication is correct, the data indicate an average of fewer
performed at various intervals over the massive formation. The dip- than two charnels dominating the fluid flow (i.e., n c 2, for
ping multistage fractures can lead to the possibility of the core in- n VJ = 1.25). Further support for a very limited number of dominant
terseaing fractures for two treatments from the same well (vertical fractures comes from the proppisnt transport behavior during the
growth out of the ~rforated diatomite interval noted in Ref. 12). propped fracture stimulation, as discussed Iater in the Proppant
In summary, the data for emxi fractws and seismic activity from Transpcm section.



SPE production& Facilities,August1993

An increase in flow resistance equivalent to a two-fold increase
in viscosity also is consistent with the reporteds tortuosity of a
fracture channel. Another meehanism for increased flow resistance
is an effective reduction in the flow channel from filter-cake accumulation, 4.5 The channel resistance is proportional to width
cubed, and a credible filter-cake thickness (i.e., 8% of the width)
would also provide a 25% increase in resistance.
In summary, this evaluation indicates no evidence of any substantial effect of the multistrands or dilation ori net pressure leading to increased fracture width or reduced penetration. The dlatomite
core provides contrary evidence for reduced penetration. Even for
the large number of fracmre strands, the tip pressure is in the range
of that expected from fluid lag with a single fracture, The inferred
increase for flow resistance indicates less than two dominant channels and is equivrdent to the expected effect from a tortuous channel or fflter-cake accumulation. Dilation could appreciably increase
closure pressure when extreme multistrandiag occurs (i.e., low effective stress and favorably oriented microstructure), but no evidence is avadable that an increase in fracture width would
accompany dihttion,
Height Growth. Warpinski et al. report that height was not as large
as expected based on the magnitude of net pressure and that offsets
found at bedding planes provide a mechanism for height confinement.
The height growth after the two minifractures with relatively lowviscosity fluid were reported 1 to be 135 and 150 ft. These heights
were selected from subsequent temperature logs showing relatively significant departure from the uphole gradient. However, interpreting the logs with smaller uphole departures and a return to static
temperature in the ratho,e as expected could indicate heights exceeding 200 and 250 ft. respeaively, with the 250 ft terminating
in or near the coal sections below 6,900 ft and above 7,200 ft. The
height growth during the treatment would be expected to be no more,
or even less, because proppant was being added before the pressure reached the lwel of the second minifracture. Proppant bridging in pinch points provides an eff~ive height barrier. $,5From
the perspective of either interpretation, the rninifractnre height
for a fracture in a zone of 80 ft gross height.
growth was dJShUSdd
There is no question that pervasive offsetting can lead to inefficiencies for height growth or that elastic models, without dissipative effects, overpredict height growth. However, the degree of
inefficiency and generality of pervasive offsetting require additional
consideration. Many aspects of the specific conditions lead to qualifiers for height-growth characteristics of the formation. These qualifiers include the formation characteristics, the enhanced shear
environment at the location of HF-I (where offsets were found),
the stimulation treatment pressures reaching the overburden stress
and promoting horizontal strands at bedding planes (i.e., gel residue
found on these planes), the potential of Iocal anomdles for stress
magnitude and direction near boundaries of Ienticular sections, and
the potential termination of the height near coal sections. Most of
these condit: , were discussed previously and are not addressed
further here.
Offsetting at a horizontrdinterface aligned with the principal stress
direction is not the preferred path of crossing for a single fracture
(e.g., the dominant fracture feature), even in the presence of interfacird slip, IS This observation leads to several questions concerningoffsets and height growth. Did the dominant fractures providing
the primary fluid channels for height growth cross the interfaces
with minimal offsets while most offsets occurred in the expected
shear strands surrounding the dominant fractures? If offsetting is
not preferred, can it create an effective flow restriction over a Iarge
laterat portion of the fracture as required for a meaningfid impediment to vertical growth? In the absence of substantial fluid loss for
the barrier, can offsets produce significant vertical pressure drops
if height, and hence vertical flow, is effectively stopped (as indicated by the paper)?
In summary, because the preference for design models is to overpredict rather than underpredict height, the role of strand offsets
in liiting height should be viewed as a mechanism to provide some
inefficiency (as indicated in the paper) but not as a generally
SPE Producdon& Facilities,August 199.3

applicable condition to provide substantial confinement in the absence of other factors, such as barriers with either higher stress
or substantial fluid loss, or definitive and supporting field evidence
for the specific formation.
Proppant Transport. Warpinsld ef aL question the current
proppant-transport assumptions because of the discontinuity of multiple strands.There is no definitive evidence to alter the current
asstn-mtionof continuous and dominant fracture channels, even from
th:. case of extensive multiple strands. The net-pressure data 1
show no indication of proppant bridging within the primary portion of the fracture during the treatment nor the final stage of larger proppant (i.e., 12/20-mesh proppant, average diameter of 0.05
in.). The gradual increase in net pressure during the latter stages
of the treatment could be expected from the fracture turning 1 to
follow the discontinuous pay sections or from the increasing lateral extent of restricted growth after proppant. $*SThe lack of evidence for proppant bridging within the primary fracture section
indicates continuous connectivity of the strands by channels with
a width at least two to three times the average proppant diameter
(0. 10 to 0. 1S in. for 12/20 mesh). It also indicates that the slurry
flow is dominated by no more than four strands, assuming the average width of about 0.5 in. over the primary section swept by the
12/20-mesh proppant. Therefore, the indication of no significant
impediments to horizontal flow for the slurry because of discontinuous strands leads to a likely similar conclusion for vertical proppant fall. Also, the indication of a very limited number of dominant
and connected strands is consistent with the magnitude of the pressure data.
Offsetting at bedding planes could impede proppant fall, but only
for large offsets compared with the fracture width (e.g., greater
than one-haltl Even the large offkets ( = 3 mm) reported in the paper
at bedding planes within the pinch-point area of HF-I do not meet
this condition for widths expected in the pay section of a fracture.
Also, as the paper indicates, offsetting is expected to be much less
in the more homogeneous sections typical of pay zones.
In summary, this review indicates no significant evidence to alter
the current assumptions of transport as a result of multistrand fractures, particularly if the current models ignore several gravityinduced convective mechanisms that can increase the proppant
movement rate to the fracture bottom. These mechanisms result
for the general case of slurry density gradients, either along the
fracture 17 or across the fracture charnel, 14,18
Assossmont of Design Praotlces
The conclusions in the prior sections provide no significant basis
to increase the level of complexity ~f current state-of-the-art fractureplacement models for reservoirs that are relatively continuous and
homogeneous, This is highly desirable because the functional complexity of design models should be consistent with the available
site data (generally very restricted), be limited only to that required
to fulfdl the engineering task, and be within the scope of the users
intuition for intelligent application. Further, very complex phenomena on a small scale can be described adequately by very simple
global models-e. g,, turbulent flow of water in pipes. Refs. 19
through 21 provide additional perspectives for the preference of
simplicity and considerations for models applied to rock mechanics and reservoir performance.
The preferences for design models do not necessarily apply to
analysis models intended to investigate special situations as
presented in the subject paper or as numerical laboratories. This
difference for analysis programs is consistent with the comment
in the paper that fracturing in complex. . .environments. ,. cannot
be modeled acceptably . . .time for a deeper look.. .at the physics. The companion analysis effort is precisely what the simpler
design models require-an understanding of specific conditions to
define the limitations for design models and permit their successful application.
Current fracture design practices are in their infancy relative to
those used in more mamre engineering disciplines. These disciplines
have developed a well-established path for fracturing to follow. The


path couples simple models with safety factom based on welldefrned

model limitations, and the factors differ for the spxific application, assumed service env!romnent (e.g., the formation characteristics), and levels of uncertainty and available data. A simple,
effective way to assess uncertainty and data is the Hollings
crossplot 19121of available data and process understanding, with M
obvious treed for increased conservatism when lack of data and
understanding overlap (as for many fracturing applications). The
understanding axis for fracturing cordd correspond to the absence
of complexity from a list of formation characteristics or complexity indices that can be defiied by geology, geophysics, logs, cores,
stress tests, and a calibration treatment. In addition to providing
a rational basis for design, the correlation of data vs. complexity
provides a rational basis to assess the investment for collecting additionrd data.
The recommended emphasis for extending fracture design technology, based on these considerations, is to follow the p~th of more
mature engineering disciplines by developing(1) relatively simple
placement and production models with welldefmed limitations,
(2) rational assessments for the level of data required for a specific formation, (3) safety factors based on the specific conditionszz
for an economic analysis leading to the optimum treatment design,
and (4) effective evaluation tools to pemrit identificationof any missing pieces after a minimum number of treatments for a specific formation.
1express appreciation to Mark Mack and Michael Smith for vaJuable comments and review of ttds discussion.

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