Elastic Rock Heterogeneity Controls Brittle Rock Failure during Hydraulic Fracturing

Friday, 19 December 2014
Cornelius Langenbruch and Serge Alexander Shapiro, Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin, Geophysics, Berlin, Germany
For interpretation and inversion of microseismic data it is important to understand, which properties of the reservoir rock control the occurrence probability of brittle rock failure and associated seismicity during hydraulic stimulation. This is especially important, when inverting for key properties like permeability and fracture conductivity. Although it became accepted that seismic events are triggered by fluid flow and the resulting perturbation of the stress field in the reservoir rock, the magnitude of stress perturbations, capable of triggering failure in rocks, can be highly variable. The controlling physical mechanism of this variability is still under discussion.

We compare the occurrence of microseismic events at the Cotton Valley gas field to elastic rock heterogeneity, obtained from measurements along the treatment wells. The heterogeneity is characterized by scale invariant fluctuations of elastic properties. We observe that the elastic heterogeneity of the rock formation controls the occurrence of brittle failure. In particular, we find that the density of events is increasing with the Brittleness Index (BI) of the rock, which is defined as a combination of Young's modulus and Poisson's ratio. We evaluate the physical meaning of the BI. By applying geomechanical investigations we characterize the influence of fluctuating elastic properties in rocks on the probability of brittle rock failure. Our analysis is based on the computation of stress fluctuations caused by elastic heterogeneity of rocks. We find that elastic rock heterogeneity causes stress fluctuations of significant magnitude. Moreover, the stress changes necessary to open and reactivate fractures in rocks are strongly related to fluctuations of elastic moduli. Our analysis gives a physical explanation to the observed relation between elastic heterogeneity of the rock formation and the occurrence of brittle failure during hydraulic reservoir stimulations.

A crucial factor for understanding seismicity in unconventional reservoirs is the role of anisotropy of rocks. We evaluate an elastic VTI rock model corresponding to a shale gas reservoir in the Horn River Basin to understand the relation between stress, event occurrence and elastic heterogeneity in anisotropic rocks.