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Computers and Geotechnics 91 (2017) 5870

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Research paper

Modeling hydraulic fracture propagation using cohesive zone model

equipped with frictional contact capability
Y. Li a,b, J.G. Deng a,b, W. Liu a,b,, Y. Feng c
State Key Laboratory of Petroleum Resource & Engineering, China University of Petroleum (Beijing), Beijing 102249, China
College of Petroleum Engineering, China University of Petroleum (Beijing), Beijing 102249, China
Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: We present a new pore pressure cohesive element for modeling the propagation of hydraulically induced
Received 18 January 2017 fracture. The Park-Paulino-Roesler cohesive zone model has been employed to characterize the fracturing
Received in revised form 1 July 2017 behavior. Coulombs frictional contact model has been incorporated into the element to model the pos-
Accepted 2 July 2017
sible shear reactivation of pre-existing natural fractures. The developed element has been validated
through a series of single-element tests and an available analytical solution. Furthermore, intersection
behaviors between the hydraulic fracture and the natural fracture under various conditions have been
predicted using the present element, which shows good agreement with experimental results.
Hydraulic fracturing
Cohesive zone model
2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Natural fracture
Frictional contact

1. Introduction flow in the fracture can be modeled by the cubic law which relates
the flow rate in the fracture to the fracture width and the fluid
Hydraulic fracturing has been widely used in the petroleum pressure gradient. Usually, linear elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM)
industry to extract hydrocarbons from reservoirs with ultra-low theory (i.e. fracture propagation occurs if the stress intensity factor
permeability which were previously economically unviable. Dur- equals to the fracture toughness) is used as a criterion for fracture
ing hydraulic stimulation, pressurized fluid is injected into the rock propagation.
formations to create fractures and/or reactivate pre-existing natu- Analytical solutions of fluid-driven fracturing played an impor-
ral fractures [1]. Other applications of hydraulic fracturing include tant role in the design of fracturing treatments in the early time.
the measurement of in situ stress [2,3], preconditioning ore bodies KGD [18,19] and PKN [20,21] models are the two well-known frac-
for caving [4], and stimulation of geothermal reservoirs [5,6]. With turing models, which can predict the behaviors of plane strain bi-
the rapid development of unconventional resources, the initiation wing fractures with constant height. In recent years, the scaling
and propagation of hydraulic fractures in tight rocks have been law and asymptotic framework [7,8,22,23] have been used to
extensively investigated from an analytical perspective [2,711] understand the different propagation regimes of hydraulic frac-
and a numerical point of view [1217]. However, modeling of tures. Analytical methods mentioned above are widely used and
hydraulic fracturing remains a challenging task due to the involved adequate for engineering purposes in the early time. However,
complicated coupled processes [13,14]: (i) rock deformation their applications are limited to simple situations such as constant
caused by the fluid pressure on the fracture faces, (ii) flow of frac- injection rate, simple fracture geometries, and linearly elastic and
turing fluid within the fracture, (iii) fracture propagation, and (iv) homogeneous medium. For hydraulic fracturing treatments in
leak-off of fluid from the fracture into the formation. In addition, unconventional reservoirs featuring low-permeability and pre-
friction between fracture surfaces also plays a significant role in existing natural fractures, complex fracture networks may be
shear reactivation of natural fractures. Generally, the rock defor- created which cannot be adequately described by the simple ana-
mation can be described by the theory of elasticity which relates lytical methods.
the fracture width with the fluid pressure in the fracture. The fluid In order to investigate the hydraulic fracturing in unconven-
tional reservoirs with complex fracture geometry and boundary
conditions, numerical methods are a viable alternative since the
Corresponding author at: College of Petroleum Engineering, China University of
complex practical conditions can be conveniently considered in a
Petroleum (Beijing), Beijing 102249, China.
numerical model. Various numerical methods have been proposed
E-mail address: (W. Liu).
0266-352X/ 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Y. Li et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 91 (2017) 5870 59

for the simulation of hydraulic fracturing. These methods can be Interfacial friction plays an important role in the shear reactivation
roughly classified into two categories: (1) continuum-based meth- of pre-existing natural fractures, which is one of the main purposes
ods and (2) discontinuum-based methods. of fracturing treatment in unconventional reservoirs [29,35,48].
A representative in the continuum-based methods is the dis- However, the original PPR model can be only used to simulate
placement discontinuity method (DDM). Kresse [24], Zhang the fracturing behaviors of frictionless material. To simulate the
[25,26] and Wu [27,28] used DDM to simulate the propagation of shear reactivation of pre-existing natural fractures, Coulombs fric-
hydraulic fracture and its interaction with pre-existing natural tion law is also incorporated into the cohesive element.
fractures. McClure [29] used DDM to investigate the diagnostic In Section 2, governing equations of the PPCZ element are pro-
fracture injection tests with complex fracture networks. Later, vided. Detailed finite element formulations for this new element
DDM was extended to three dimensions by Wu [30] and McClure are discussed in Section 3. In Section 4, our model is validated
[31]. In the context of finite element methods, Carrier [32], Chen through a series of single-element tests and an available analytical
[14], and Li [33] used pore pressure cohesive element to model solution. Furthermore, the intersection behaviors between the
the fluid-driven fracture. Dahi-Talegahani [16] and Chen [34] sim- hydraulic fracture and the natural fracture have been predicted
ulated hydraulic fracturing using extended finite element method by the PPCZ element and compared to the existing experimental
(XFEM). The above mentioned DDM and XFEM can simulate the results. In Section 5, some advantages and limitations of this new
propagation of hydraulic fracture with arbitrary paths. In addition method are discussed briefly. Finally, some conclusions are given
to the conventional continuum approaches summarized above, in Section 6.
some new continuum approaches have been introduced in recent
year. Wang [35] used the RFPA software to investigate the shear
2. Governing equations
stimulation in naturally fractured reservoirs. Miehe [36], Wick
[37] and Liu [38] used a Phase-Field model to simulate the fluid-
2.1. Fluid flow in the fracture
driven fractures and the interaction between multiple fractures.
Ouchi [39] developed a Peridynamics model to simulate the prop-
The fluid flow in the fracture (Fig. 1) is controlled by the mass
agation of hydraulic fractures in heterogeneous, and naturally frac-
conservation equation:
tured reservoirs. However, until now, large-scale simulation is still
a problem for these new methods. @ qw @ qq
0 1
For typical discontinuum-based methods, continuum domain is @t @s
discretized into a series of separate blocks or particles and fracture
where w is the fracture width; q is the fluid density; q is the volume
propagation is characterized by the separation of these blocks or
flow rate; and s is the coordinate along the fracture.
particles. The discontinuum-based approach is represented by
For a Newtonian fluid, the flow inside the fracture can be
the universal distinct element code (UDEC) and 3 dimensional dis-
described by the cubic law derived from the Poiseuille equation
tinct element code (3DEC). Nagel [40] used the UDEC software to
between two parallel plates:
model the shear reactivation of pre-existing natural fractures
around the hydraulic fracture. The results show that changes of ws; t3 @p
stress field due to hydraulic fracture propagation have a dramatic qs; t  2
12l @s
influence on the shear reactivations of the pre-existing natural
fractures, which, in turn, significantly affect the growth of the where l is the fluid viscosity.
hydraulic fracture. Farzin [41] investigated the initiation and prop- Assuming the fluid is incompressible, combining Eqs. (1) and
agation of hydraulically induced fractures by 3DEC. Another major (2), the following lubrication equation can be obtained:
type of discontinuum-based method is discontinuous deformation  
analysis (DDA). Choo [42] and Morgan [43] present a new hydrau- @w @ w3 @p
 0 3
lic fracturing model based on DDA. In addition to the continuum- @t @s 12l @s
and discontinuum-based methods, hybrid method, such as the The above equations can be solved with appropriate initial and
finite-discrete element method (FDEM) is also an important boundary conditions. Usually, the conditions at the crack mouth
method for hydraulic fracturing simulation [4446]. and tip of the fracture can be expressed as:
In general, the continuum-based methods have some difficul-
ties in modeling the intersection between hydraulic fracture and qs 0; t q0 t 4
natural fracture while most of the discontinuum methods need a
small time increment due to the explicit integration scheme. ws l; t 0; qs l; t 0 5
Therefore, we try to develop a new model, which is similar to the
discontinuum-based methods but uses an implicit integration where l is the fracture length. In fact, when the first condition in Eq.
scheme to obtain a relatively larger time increment. (5) is satisfied, the second one is fulfilled naturally.
In this paper, we developed a 2D, fully coupled finite element
model to simulate the propagation of hydraulic fractures in tight 2.2. Fracture propagation
rocks. Two types of elements are involved in the finite element
mesh, i.e. bulk elements and pore-pressure cohesive zone (PPCZ) Fracture propagation is assumed to be governed by a cohesive
elements. Zero-thickness PPCZ elements are inserted into any zone model. This model was first proposed by Barenblatt [49] to
two neighboring triangular elements. The propagation, branching, overcome some limitations of the LEFM. It avoids the stress singu-
merging, and intersection of fractures can be captured by the PPCZ larity at the fracture tip and characterizes the nonlinear fracture
elements and the deformation of surrounding matrix is model by process zone ahead of the tip. Generally, this process zone may
bulk elements. For the reason that the bulk element has been experience three stages: elastic, softening, and complete failure.
extensively implemented in many commercial or open source The cohesive zone model has been successfully applied to simulate
FEM codes, we restrict our attention to the development and fracture propagation in various materials from brittle to ductile,
implementation of the PPCZ element in this study. The mechanical such as rocks, cement, and metals [14,15,32,34,5057].
behaviors of the PPCZ element are characterized by Park-Paulino- The behaviors of a cohesive element are governed by a traction-
Roesler (PPR) cohesive zone model proposed by Park [47]. separation law. In this study, the PPR potential-based cohesive law
60 Y. Li et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 91 (2017) 5870

h/t /n i b
Ct /t /t /n 14
If the modes I and II energies are the same, the energy constants
are expressed as
 a m
Cn /n 15
Ct 16
The normal and tangential final crack opening width can be
expressed as

/n a  a m1
dn akn 1  kn a1 1 kn 1 17
rmax m m
/t b b
Fig. 1. Fluid flow in a hydraulic fracture. dt bkt 1  kt b1 1 kt 1 18
smax n n
Then the propagation of fracture can be described by the cohe-
is used to characterize the fracture behaviors. The potential func- sive zone model presented above. Note that, in the PPR potential
tion of the cohesive law is defined as follows [47]: cohesive zone model, only /n , /t , rmax , smax , a, b, kn and kt are inde-
pendent variables. Refer to [47,58,59] for more details about this
wDn ; Dt min/n ; /t model.
Dn a m Dn m
Cn 1  h/n  /t i
dn a dn 2.3. Interface friction
"  b  n #
jDt j n jDt j
 Ct 1  h/t  /n i 6 Shear reactivation of pre-existing natural fractures plays an
dt b dt important role in creating a complex fracture network, which is
where w is the potential function of the cohesive zone model; /n , /t crucial for the successful development of unconventional reser-
are the fracture energies in the normal and tangential direction, voirs. The friction between the fracture surfaces should be consid-
respectively; Cn , Ct are the energy constants in the PPR model; Dn ered in fracture modeling. Although many types of cohesive zone
and Dt are the separations in normal and tangential direction, models are able to model fracture initiation and propagation, most
respectively; dn , dt are the normal and tangential final openings; of them neglect the friction between the sliding surfaces. The cohe-
a, b are the shape function parameters in PPR model; the symbol sive tractions obtained from the potential-based models represent
monotonic separation phenomena. If the frictional sliding along
h i is theMacauley bracket, i.e.
 the fracture surfaces is considered, an additional constitutive rela-
0; x 6 0 tionship should be introduced into the PPR potential-based cohe-
hxi 7
x; x > 0 sive zone model.
In this study, a Coulomb friction model is used for characteriz-
the exponents m and n are associated with the initial slope and can
ing the static and sliding frictions between the fracture surfaces, as
be expressed as:
shown in Fig. 2. Cohesive elements will slide if the shear stress
aa  1k2n bb  1k2t exceeds the sliding friction. To simplify the problem, it is assumed
m ; n 8 that the friction coefficient remains the same for static and sliding
1  ak2n 1  bk2t
frictions. Thus, for the sliding elements, the friction traction T f can
where kn and kt are initial slope indicators and determined by the be given as:
ratio of the critical fracture opening to the final fracture opening.
The partial derivatives of the PPR potential function lead to the
normal and tangential cohesive tractions as: Tf
@wDn ; Dt
T n Dn ; Dt 9 f Tn
@ Dn

@wDn ; Dt
T t Dn ; Dt 10 Kt
@ Dt
t (e) t( p) 1
The normal and shear cohesive strengths of the PPR model can
be expressed as:
rmax T n Dn ; Dt max 11

smax T t Dn ; Dt max 12
When the modes I and II fracture energies are different, the
f Tn
energy constants Cn and Ct are given by
h/n /t i  a m
Cn /n /n /t 13 Fig. 2. Coulomb friction constitutive model.
Y. Li et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 91 (2017) 5870 61

T f lf jT n j 19 Using this iteration process, the tangential friction traction at

the end of the i 1th time step can be obtained.
where lf is the friction coefficient and jT n j is the effective normal
stress acting on the surfaces. For the elements that are not
3. Formulations and numerical implementation
sliding, the magnitude of the friction stress T f is in the range from
zero to lf jT n j depending on the external shear stress acting on the
3.1. Pore pressure cohesive element
The tangential separation of the cohesive element is needed to
The cohesive zone model can be easily implemented into the
be calculated with the friction stress at the same time. Generally, it
classic finite element framework. To model hydraulic fracture
cannot be expressed explicitly and thus an iterative technique is
propagation, a new zero-thickness PPCZ element based on PPR
required. The implementation of this technique is analogous to
cohesive zone model is developed in this paper. As shown in
the Mohr-Coulomb plasticity model. At the beginning of the
Fig. 3, a PPCZ element contains 6 nodes. Each node of 14 has
i 1th time step, the total tangential separation increment is
two displacement degrees of freedom, and nodes 5 and 6 only have
assumed as elastic strain, and then the trial tangential friction
the pore pressure degree of freedom. The fluid pressure and flow
traction can be calculated as:
rate in the fracture are discretized on the mid-plane nodes 5 and
stri1 si K t Ddti1 20 6. The fracture width is calculated from the displacement differ-
ence between the upper and lower surfaces. Displacement and
@T t Dn ; Dt 0 fluid pressure are assumed varying linearly over the cohesive ele-
Kt 21 ment. Hence, the separations of element Dx and fluid pressure
@ Dt
pf x at any position can be determined from the nodal values
where si is the tangential friction traction at the end of the previous using linear interpolation functions.
i1 Since the fracture widths are calculated using the local nodal
time step; stri1 is the trial tangential friction traction; Ddt is the
total tangential separation increment; K t is the artificial tangential displacements, the global coordinate X of a cohesive element is
stiffness. first transformed to a local coordinate x:
The frictional slip criterion governing the frictional behavior x RX 28
between surfaces can be defined as:
where R is the coordinate rotation matrix, and is given as:
f stri1  lf jT n j 22  
cos h sin h
R 29
If f 6 0, there is no plastic strain in the i 1th time step and  sin h cos h
the tangential friction traction st is calculated from the Eq. (20)
directly. where h is the angle between the local and global coordinate
If f > 0, plastic strain exists in the i 1th time step. The
 is transformed to the local
The global nodal displacement u
associative flow rule [60] is adopted to compute the plastic
nodal displacement u
strain, i.e. frictional sliding, as
~ Tu
u  30
Ddtp Dk Dk 23
@s where u u1 ; u2 ; . . . ; u7 ; u8 ; T is the displacement transformation

where Dk is the consistency factor. matrix, defined as:

The total increment of tangential separation Ddt can be split 2 3
R 0 0 0
into two parts, i.e. an elastic part Ddte and a plastic part Ddtp : 60 R 0 07
6 7
T6 7 31
Ddt Ddte Ddtp 24 40 0 R 05
Substituting Eq. (23) into Eq. (24) gives the elastic strain as:
0 0 0 R

i1 i1 According to the local nodal displacements, the local nodal sep-

Ddte Dd t  Dki1 25
aration can be obtained as:
Then, the following return mapping algorithm (Newton itera- ~ Lu
D ~ 32
tions) is used for calculating the plastic part mentioned above
and the real friction stress si1 : where L is the local displacement-separation relation matrix,
defined as:
(1) The Taylor expansion of f 0 can be written as:

f dDk    0 26
@ Dk
Neglecting the high-order terms result in:

dDk f =dt 27
where dt @@fDk ji K t .
(2) The initial value for Dki is 0;
i i
(3) Dki1 Dki dDki Dki  f =dt
(4) stri1
s i
K t Dut  Dki1
i i1
(5) If f > tol, then Dk Dk and return to (3)
(6) If f 6 tol, then si1 stri1 Fig. 3. A typical configuration of PPCZ element.
62 Y. Li et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 91 (2017) 5870

2 3
1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 The weak form of the equation governing the behavior of fluid
6 7 flow in the PPCZ element can be obtained from Eqs. (3)(5) as
6 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 17
7 33 follows:
4 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 05 Z     
@w @ w3 @pf w3 @pf
0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 dpf  dx  dpf q0 j
Cc @t @x 12l @x 12l @x x0
Then, the separation fields can be determined as:  
w3 @pf
dpf 0 j 0 43
Dx NTw D 34 12l @x xle

where Nw is the interpolation function, defined as: Eq. (43) can be rewritten to:
2 le x 3 Z Z
@w w3 @pf @dpf
0 dpf dx dx dpf q0 jx0 44
7 Cc @t Cc 12l @x @x
6 0 le x 7
Nw 6
6 x
le 7
7 35 The discrete form of Eq. (44) is given as:
4 le 0 5
Z   Z 
0 x w3
le Np NT1 Bc dx Du  Dt Mp MTp dx p DtNp q0 jx0
Cc Cc 12l
where le is the length of fracture, x 2 0; le  is the location of the |{z}
point of interest in the local coordinate.
The relationship between local separation field and global nodal 45
displacement can be obtained by substituting Eqs. (30) and (32) u  u
, u
  is the nodal displacement vector at the end
where Du
into Eq. (34):
of the previous time step.

Dx Bc u 36 Combining Eqs. (42) and (45), the stiffness K and internal force
f int of this new PPCZ element can be obtained:
where Bc is the global nodal displacement-separation relation
" @I1 @I1
matrix, Bc NTw LT. 
@u @p
Using Eq. (36), the width of the fracture can be expressed as: K @I2 @I2
@u @p
wx NT1 Dx Dx 37  
1 I1
f int 47
The fluid pressure is considered as traction acting on the inter-
nal surfaces of failure PPCZ element, which can be given by:

pf x NTp p 38 4. Benchmarks and results

where p p1 ; p2 T is the vector of fluid pressure; Np is the fluid It is essential to test the mechanical and hydraulic behaviors of
pressure interpolation vector, defined as: the new PPCZ element before using it. In this section, the compu-
" # tational implementation of the element is first verified using
le x
Np le
39 single-element tests. Later, the accuracy of the element is validated
le against analytical solutions and laboratory experiments. In the
single-element tests, pure mode-I, pure mode-II, and mixed
The partial derivative of Np with respect to the local coordinate mode-II/friction tests are performed. Next, the simulation results
x is given as: of the KGD problem are compared with the asymptotic solutions
@Np provided by Detourney [8]. Finally, simulation results of interac-
Mp 40 tion between hydraulic facture and natural fracture are compared
with the results of laboratory experiments provided by Gu [61].

3.2. Finite element formulation

4.1. Singe-element tests
The weak form of the equation governing the mechanical
The geometries of the single-element tests are shown in Fig. 4. A
behavior of the PPCZ element is obtained from the principle of
PPCZ element is assembled with a bulk element (1 m  1 m). The
virtual work. The total virtual work done by the internal forces
(summation of cohesive and friction traction Tc , and fluid
pressure p) on the internal element surfaces Cc is equal to the
work done by the external forces Text on external element sur-
faces C:
dD  Tc dS  dwxpf xdS du  Text dS 41
Cc Cc C

where dD, dwx, and du are the virtual separation, virtual width,
and virtual displacement, respectively.
The first-order backward difference scheme is used for time
integration, and the discrete form of Eq. (41) can be given as:
Z  Z  Z
BTc Tc dS  BTc N1 NTp dS p NTw Text dS 42
Cc Cc C
|{z} Fig. 4. Geometries of (a) pure tensile test, (b) pure shear test, and (c) mixed mode-
I1 II/friction test.
Y. Li et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 91 (2017) 5870 63

Table 1
Input parameters of the PPR cohesive zone model for the single-element tests.

/n (J/m2) /t (J/m2) rmax (MPa) smax (MPa) a b kn kt lf

400 800 4 8 4 4 0.1 0.1 0.6

two lower nodes of the PPCZ element are fixed. Additionally, the friction test is performed to examine the frictional behavior of the
pore pressures of the mid-plane nodes are fixed at zero because PPCZ element. First, a normal stress of 5 MPa is applied on the top
this test focus on the mechanical behavior of the element and of the bulk element; next, the bulk element is stretched to the right
the hydraulic behavior of the element will be validated later. The by 0.3 mm; and then it is displaced to the left by 0.6 mm; finally,
Youngs modulus and Poissons ratio of the bulk element are the element is stretched back to the initial position. Fig. 5(c) shows
10,000 GPa and 0, respectively. The relevant parameters of the the changes of friction stress and total tangential stress with shear
cohesive element are shown in Table 1. displacement during the entire simulation. The friction stress
For the pure mode-I test, the bulk element is stretched at the equals to the product of the normal stress and the friction coeffi-
top with a displacement of 0.3 mm. The stress-displacement rela- cient, and the total tangential stress equals to the summation of
tionship is plotted in Fig. 5(a). The stress initially increases to the the cohesive strength and friction stress. These results indicate that
tensile strength of the element, and then decreases to zero. For the computational implementation of the PPR cohesive zone model
the pure mode-II test, a displacement of 0.3 mm is applied to the is correct.
right side of the bulk element. Similar to the pure mode-I test, as
shown in Fig. 5(b), the shear stress increases to the shear strength
4.2. KGD problem
of the element, and then decreases to zero. Next, a mixed mode-II/
In this section, the PPCZ element is validated by comparing its
results with available analytical solutions for hydraulic fractures
under viscosity-dominated and toughness-dominated conditions.
A bi-wing fracture is created by injecting an incompressible New-
tonian fluid into rock (Fig. 6). The rock is assumed to be imperme-
able and under a plane strain condition. The fluid injection rate is
Q 0 . Fracture half-length lt, fracture aperture wx; t, and net
pressure of the fracture px; t will be determined, where x is the

Fig. 6. Geometry of the KGD problem.

Table 2
Input parameters for the KGD problem.

Youngs modulus, GPa E 10

Poissons ratio v 0.1
Mode-I fracture energy, J/m2 /n 10 (viscosity, Km 0:304.)
1000 (toughness, Km 5:409.)
Mode-II fracture energy, J/m 0
Tensile cohesive strength, MPa rmax 0.04 (viscosity)
8 (toughness)
Shear cohesive strength, MPa smax 1.5
Shape function parameter a 3
Shape function parameter b 3
Initial slope indicator kn 0.001 (viscosity)
0.05 (toughness)
Initial slope indicator kt 0.01
Friction coefficient lf 0.6
Injection rate, m2/s Q0 0.001
Viscosity, Pas l 0.01 (viscosity)
0.001 (toughness)
Fig. 5. Computational results of (a) pure mode-I test, (b) pure mode-II test, and (c)
Minimum principal stress, MPa rh 2
Injection time, s t 10
mixed mode-II/friction test.
64 Y. Li et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 91 (2017) 5870

distance along the fracture and t is injection time. The analytical where n x=lt is the scaled coordinate 0 6 n 6 1; et is a small
solutions of this problem are provided by Detourney [8] as func- dimensionless parameter; Lt is length scale; c, X, and P are
tions of the injection rate Q 0 and three material parameters E0 , dimensionless fracture length, aperture, and net pressure,
K 0 , and l0 , respectively.
 1=2 In viscosity-dominated propagation regime, the aforemen-
E 2 tioned dimensionless parameters can be expressed as follows:
E0 ; K 0
4 K IC ; l0 12l; 48
1  v2 p !1=6
l0 1=3 E0 Q 30
where K IC is the fracture toughness, E is the Young modulus, v is the et 0 ; Lt t 2=3 50
Poisson ratio, and l is the fluid viscosity.
Et l0
The solutions provided by Detourney [8] can be expressed as:
cm0 0:616 51
lt Ltct; wx; t etltXn; t; px; t etE0 Pn; t
49  m0 n A0 1  n2
2=3 1
A1 1  n2

" q p#
10 m 1 1  1  n2
B 4 1  n 2n ln 2 2
p 52
1 1  n2
1 1 2 1 1 10 1 7 1
Initial P1
m0 B ; A02 F 1  ; 1; ; n2 A1 2 F 1  ;1; ; n2
3p 2 3 6 2 7 6 2
B1 2  pjnj
Q0 53
2 80 m 3.2 m 1
where A0 31=2 ; A1 0:156; B1 0:0663; B is the Euler beta
function; and 2 F 1 is a hyper-geometric function.
Cohesive In toughness-dominated propagation regime, the above param-
element eters are defined as:
!1=3  2=3
K 04 E0 Q 0 t
et ; Lt 54
E04 Q 0 t K0
(a) (b)
ck0 55
Fig. 7. Geometry and mesh for the numerical model of KGD problem. p2=3

Fig. 8. Comparisons between the numerical and the analytical solution of the KGD problem. (a) Net pressure at the injection point; (b) fracture aperture at the injection point;
(c) net pressure along the fracture length at the end of injection (t = 10 s); (d) fracture aperture along the fracture length at the end of injection (t = 10 s).
Y. Li et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 91 (2017) 5870 65

 k0 n p1=3 1=2 elements to the far field. There are 40,000 linear quadrilateral ele-
X 1  n2 56
2 ments and 200 zero-thickness PPCZ elements in the model. The
same mesh is used for both cases of viscosity-dominated regime
p1=3 and toughness-dominated regime. A total duration of 10 s of injec-
Pk0 57 tion is simulated.
Fig. 8 shows the comparisons between the numerical results
Dimensionless toughness K m can be used to estimate the frac-
and the asymptotic solutions. The temporal evolutions of the net
ture propagation regimes (i.e. viscosity-dominated or toughness-
dominated), which is defined as [8]
Table 3
 1=2  1=4
2 K IC 1  v 2 E Input parameters for simulating Gus experiments.
Km 4 58
p E 12lQ 0 1  v 2 Rock parameters
Youngs Modulus, GPa E 10
The hydraulic fracture propagation regime is toughness- Poissons ratio v 0.1
dominated when K m is larger than 4.0, and viscosity-dominated Friction coefficient lf 0.615
when K m is smaller than 1.0. Under the plane strain condition, Tensile strength, MPa rmax 4
the relation between fracturing toughness K IC and fracturing Shear strength, MPa smax 20
Tensile fracturing energy, J/m2 /n 100
energy /n is given as: Shear fracturing energy, J/m2 /t 4500
r Shape function parameter a 3
/n E Shape function parameter b 3
K IC 59
1  v2 Initial slope indicator kn 0.1
Initial slope indicator kt 0.1
The input parameters used for simulations are listed in Table 2.
Natural fracture parameters
The dimensionless toughness K m of viscosity-dominated and Friction coefficient lf 0.615
toughness-dominated regimes are about 0.304 and 5.409, Tensile strength, MPa rmax 0.4
respectively. Shear strength, MPa smax 2
The geometry of the numerical model is shown in Fig. 7(a). The Tensile fracturing energy, J/m2 /n 10
Shear fracturing energy, J/m2 /t 450
size of the half-model is 10  80 m. Symmetric displacement
Shape function parameter a 3
boundary condition is imposed to the left edge. The normal dis- Shape function parameter b 3
placements of the right, top, and bottom edges are fixed. To initial- Initial slope indicator kn 0.05
ize the simulation, a very small hydraulic aperture (0.5 mm) is Initial slope indicator kt 0.05
assigned to two PPCZ elements near the injection point at the mid- Fluid parameters
Pump rate, m2/s Q0 3  108
point of left edge to allow fluid injection. Part of the mesh near the Viscosity, Pas l 1.0
injection point is shown in Fig. 7(b). The model is discretized with Injection time, s t 150
finer elements near the injection point and progressively larger

Fig. 9. (a) Geometry model and (b) mesh topology of the numerical simulation model.
66 Y. Li et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 91 (2017) 5870

pressure and fracture aperture at the injection point are shown in the end of the simulation (t = 10 s). Far from the near tip region,
Fig. 8(a) and (b), respectively. The numerical results of time history the profiles match very well with the asymptotic solutions. In
plots agree very well with the asymptotic solutions for both the the near tip region, the viscosity-dominated case exhibits a slightly
viscosity-dominated and toughness-dominated conditions. Fig. 8 lower net pressure and aperture than the asymptotic solution. This
(c) and (d) plot the net pressure and fracture aperture profiles at is because that the numerical method and the asymptotic solutions

Fig. 10. Fracture geometries and contours of the magnitude of the displacement in direction x (in meters).
Y. Li et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 91 (2017) 5870 67

use different propagation criteria. On the basis of these results it the magnitude of displacement in direction x. First, we compare
can be concluded that the PPCZ element developed in this study the simulation results of two cases ((a) and (b)) with same inter-
is able to accurately capture the viscosity-dominated and the section angle 45. Case (a) and case (b) have the same rh .
toughness-dominated solutions. (6.895 MPa) but different rH (8.27 MPa and 17.24 MPa, respec-
tively). Fig. 10(a) and (b) shows the simulation results of case (a)
4.3. Interaction between hydraulic fracture (HF) and natural fracture and (b). The domains are colored with the magnitudes of the dis-
(NF) placement in direction x with a color bar that is depicted on the
bottom-left of each plot (in meters). It can be observed that the
The new element is also used to simulate the experiments of HF propagates along the direction of the maximum stress in the
interaction between HF and NF in sandstone by Gu [61]. In exper- early time and only deflects into the right wing of the NF when
iments, six Colton sandstone samples with a tensile strength of the HF hits the NF. This is because the opening of the vertical HF
588 psi (4.054 MPa) were used. The size of the sandstone blocks tends to push the left-wing of NF close while helps to pull the
is 11  11  15 inches (28  28  38 cm). The friction coefficient right-wing of NF open. However, because of the different stress
of the interface is 0.615, and the cohesion of the interface is nearly contrasts, there are significant differences between the deforma-
zero. Silicon oil with a kinematic viscosity of 1000 cSt (correspond- tion behavior of NFs in case (a) and (b). It seems that the NF is acti-
ing dynamic viscosity is 1.0 Pas) was injected into the wellbore vated in pure tension (mode I) in case (a) while is activated in pure
drilled in the blocks at a constant rate of 30 mL/min. shear (mode II) in case (b). This difference is to be expect because
To simulate Gus experiment using the PPCZ elements, the typ- they have different normal and shear stress acting on the surfaces
ical geometry and mesh scheme are shown in Fig. 9. The model is of NFs.
under plane-strain condition with a size of 30 cm  30 cm. PPCZ Next, according to the experiments, we consider the cases
elements are inserted into any two neighboring triangular bulk shown in Fig. 10(c) and (d) with same intersection angle 75. The
elements as shown in Fig. 9(b). Constant stress boundaries are stress conditions of case (c) and (d) are same with the case (a)
imposed on the outer boundaries: surface pressure rh is imposed and (b), respectively. In Fig. 10(c), as with the case (a), the HF
on the left and right surfaces, and surface pressure rH is imposed grows vertically until it hits the natural fracture, and then diverts
on the top and bottom surfaces. Due to some parameters required into the NF. However, the zoomed-in view of the near-
for the numerical simulation were not provided explicitly in Gus intersection region in case (c) shows that the left-wing of natural
article [61], for better comparison between the numerical and fracture is also activated because the aforementioned push effect
experimental results, the input parameters used in the numerical acting on the left-wing of NF decreases as the intersection angle
model are chosen as reasonable as possible. The input parameters increases. In Fig. 10(d), the HF grows vertically in the early time,
for the modeling are reported in Table 3. and then directly crosses the NF without diversion because of the
Six cases are simulated with different stress contrasts and inter- larger interfacial friction along the natural fracture induced by
section angles. Fig. 10 shows the fracture profiles and contours of larger rH and intersection angle.

Table 4
Comparison between the numerical and experimental results.

Case Angle () rH (MPa) rh (MPa) Experimental results Numerical results

a 45 8.27 6.895 No crossing No crossing
b 45 17.24 6.895 No crossing No crossing
c 75 8.27 6.895 No crossing No crossing
d 75 17.24 6.895 Crossing Crossing
e 90 7.58 6.895 No crossing No crossing
f 90 13.79 6.895 Crossing Crossing

Fig. 11. (a) Distribution of natural fractures; (b) finite element meshes.
68 Y. Li et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 91 (2017) 5870

Fig. 12. Effect of friction coefficient on the evolution of fracture network. (a) friction coefficient = 0.4; (b) friction coefficient = 0.6; (c) friction coefficient = 0.8; (d) friction
coefficient = 1.0.

The last two simulations have been carried out for the cases or fillings. To investigate the effect of friction coefficient of NFs
(e and f) with an orthogonal intersection angle. According to the on the evolution of fracture network during hydraulic fracturing
experiments, in Fig. 10(e), we provide the simulation result of case treatment, we conducted a sensitivity analysis that considered 4
subjected to a small stress contrast condition (rH 7:58 MPa, different NF friction coefficients (0.4/0.6/0.8/1.0). The geometry
rh 6:895 MPa). The HF propagates vertically initially, and then of the model and the distribution of NFs in the domain are shown
the first element of left-wing and right-wing of NF are activated in Fig. 11(a). The angle between NFs and y-axis are 75. The size of
at time t = 105 s, as shown in the zoomed-view of Fig. 10(e). At the model is 40  40 m, and injection point is positioned at the
later times, the upper branch of the HF terminates at the intersec- center of the domain. The domain was discretized into triangular
tion point and only the lower branch of the HF grows as the injec- elements, as shown in Fig. 11(b). Zero-displacement and no-flow
tion continues. According to the experiments, rH is increased to conditions were imposed on the outer boundaries. The magnitudes
13.79 MPa in case (f). In this case, as shown in Fig. 10(f), the HF of minimum and maximum principal stresses are 10 and 14 MPa,
crosses the NF directly as if the NF does not exist. respectively. The minimum and maximum principal stresses are
The comparisons between the numerical and experimental along the x-axis and y-axis, respectively. The injection rate is
results are shown in Table 4. The comparisons show there is a good 0.0002 m2/s, and the viscosity of fluid is 1.0 mPas. The other input
agreement in the intersection behaviors of the fractures between parameters are assumed to be the same as those listed in Table 3. A
the numerical modeling and the experimental observation. These total duration of 200 s of injection is simulated.
results suggest that the PPCZ element can reasonably capture the Fracture patterns for 4 cases with different NF friction coeffi-
intersections between HF and NF during the hydraulic fracturing cients are shown in Fig. 12. The bold gray lines represent the
treatments. pre-existing NF elements, the blue lines represent the activated
HF elements, and the red1 lines represent the activated NF elements.
In Fig. 12(a), HF propagates vertically in the early time, and then
5. Effect of friction coefficient on the evolution of fracture
deflects into NFs, and then turns back to the direction of maximum

Friction coefficient, which plays a key role in the shear failure of 1

For interpretation of color in Fig. 12, the reader is referred to the web version of
NF, may differ considerably for NFs with different roughness and/ this article.
Y. Li et al. / Computers and Geotechnics 91 (2017) 5870 69

principal stress after the coming out from the NFs. In Fig. 12(b), as to describe the interfacial friction. The discrete governing equa-
with the case (a), one can clearly see that the type of most intersec- tions for the PPCZ element are derived. The element is imple-
tion of HF and NF can be classified as turning crossing-type. Unlike mented into the commercial finite element software ABAQUS/
the case (b), most intersection in case (c) and all intersection in case Standard and validated through a series of single-element tests
(d) are direct crossing type, as shown in Fig. 12(c) and (d). These and available analytical solutions of the viscosity-dominated and
results indicate that HF is more likely to directly cross NFs than to toughness-dominated KGD problem. Further simulation results
deflect into and propagate along the NFs as the friction coefficient show that the PPCZ element is able to capture the interaction
of NFs increase, which implies that the low friction coefficient of behaviors of hydraulic fracture and natural fracture and is effective
NF tends to increase complexity of fracture geometry. for simulating the hydraulic fracture propagation in naturally frac-
tured reservoirs. It is recommended to use the PPCZ element to
simulate hydraulic fracture propagation in impermeable or low-
6. Discussions
permeable reservoirs because the poroelastic effect and fluid leak-
off have not been taken into account.
Numerical simulation of the hydraulic fracture propagation is a
Future work could include extending the PPCZ element to 3D
challenging task because of multiple coupled physical mecha-
and considering complex fluid flow models, shearing-induced dila-
nisms, strong nonlinear behaviors of the coupling between fracture
tion of the fractures, and proppant transport in the fractures.
propagation and fluid flow, and the existences of the natural frac-
tures and other discontinuous structures. As stated in Section 1,
many numerical methods have been developed to reproduce the Acknowledgements
process of hydraulic fracture propagation. Each of those methods
has its own strengths and weaknesses. The PPCZ element proposed This work is financially supported by National Natural Science
in this paper is no exception. In this section, the advantages and Found (No. 11502304), and National Science and Technology Major
limitations of the PPCZ element compared with other methods Project (2016ZX05058002-006), and China University of Petro-
are discussed briefly. leum, Beijing (No. 2462013YJRC023, No. C201601).
The main advantage of the PPCZ element is the ability to simu-
late the branching and intersection of the fractures as a natural
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