Impact of Wettability on Fracturing of Nano-Granular Materials

Friday, 19 December 2014
Mathias Trojer and Ruben Juanes, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, United States
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a well-known reservoir stimulation technique, by which the permeability of the near-wellbore region is enhanced through the creation of tensile fractures within the rock, formed in the direction perpendicular to the least principal stress. While it is well known that fracturing of granular media strongly depends on the type of media, the pore fluids, and the fracking fluids, the interplay between multiphase flow, wettability and fracture mechanics of shale-like (nano-granular) materials remains poorly understood. Here, we study experimentally the dynamics of multiphase-flow fracking in nano-porous media and its dependence on the wetting properties of the system. The experiments consist in saturating a thin bed of glass beads with a viscous fluid, injecting a less viscous fluid, and imaging the invasion morphology. We investigate three control parameters: the injection rate of the less-viscous invading phase, the confining stress, and the contact angle, which we control by altering the surface chemistry of the beads and the Hele-Shaw cell. We quantify the dynamic fracture pattern by means of particle image velocimetry (PIV), and elucidate the role of wettability on the emerging flow physics at the length scale of the viscous–frictional instability.