Ph.D. Defense by William Morgan

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School of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Ph.D. Thesis Defense Announcement

A Fully Implicit Stochastic Model for Hydraulic Fracturing Based on the Discontinuous Deformation Analysis

William Morgan

Dr. Mustafa Aral (CEE)

Committee Members:
Dr. Haiying Huang (CEE), Dr. J. Carlos Santamarina (CEE), Dr. Marc Stieglitz (CEE), Dr. Turgay Uzer (PHYS)

Date & Time: November 5th, 2014 at 3:00 PM
Location: Sustainable Education Building (SEB), Room 122


In recent years, hydraulic fracturing has led to a dramatic increase in the worldwide production of natural gas. In a typical treatment, millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are injected into a gas reservoir to generate fractures and increase the reservoir's permeability. Recent research has shown that both the effectiveness of fracturing treatments and the productivity of fractured reservoirs can be heavily influenced by the presence of pre-existing natural fracture networks. This work presents a fully implicit hydro-mechanical algorithm for modeling hydraulic fracturing in complex fracture networks, using the two-dimensional discontinuous deformation analysis (DDA). Building upon previous studies coupling the DDA to fracture network flow, this work emphasizes the various improvements needed to stabilize the algorithm and facilitate its convergence. Additional emphasis is placed on validation of the model and on extending the model to the stochastic characterization of hydraulic fracturing in naturally fractured systems.
To validate the coupled algorithm, the model was tested against two analytical solutions for hydraulic fracturing, one for the growth of a fixed-length fracture subject to constant fluid pressure, and the other for growth of a viscosity-dominated fracture subject to a constant rate of fluid injection. Additionally, the model was used to reproduce the results of a hydraulic fracturing experiment performed using high-viscosity fracturing fluid in a homogeneous media. Very good agreement was displayed in all cases, suggesting that the algorithm is suitable for simulating hydraulic fracturing in homogeneous media.
Next, this work explores the relationship between the maximum tensile stress and Mohr-Coulomb fracture criteria used in the DDA and the critical stress intensity factor criteria from linear elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM). The relationship between the criteria is derived, and the ability of the model to capture the relationship is examined for both Mode I and Mode II fracturing. The model was then used to simulate the LEFM solution for a toughness-dominated bi-wing hydraulic fracture. Good agreement was found between the numerical and theoretical results, suggesting that the simpler maximum tensile stress criteria can serve as an acceptable substitute for the more rigorous LEFM criteria in studies of hydraulic fracturing.
Finally, this work presents a method for modeling hydraulic fracturing in reservoirs characterized by pre-existing fracture networks. The ability of the algorithm to correctly model the interaction mechanism of intersecting fractures is demonstrated through comparison with experimental results, and the method is extended to the stochastic analysis of hydraulic fracturing in probabilistically characterized reservoirs. Ultimately, the method is applied to a case study of hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale, and the sensitivity of fracture propagation to variations in rock and fluid parameters is analyzed.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Danielle Ramirez
  • Created: 10/23/2014
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016

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