Laboratory Experiments on Wave Emissions Generated by the Variable Viscosity of Fracturing Fluids

Friday, 19 December 2014
Arash Dahi Taleghani and Juan M Lorenzo, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, United States
Microseismic analysis is recognized as the main method for estimating hydraulic fracture geometry. However, because of limited access to the subsurface and usually high levels of environmental noise it becomes crucial to verify assumed fracture propagation models under more controlled laboratory conditions. Considering the fact that fluid driven fractures may grow under different regimes i.e., toughness-dominated or viscous-dominated, scaling is necessary to reproduce the corresponding fracture growth regime. Scaling is achieved by constraining material deformational parameters, fluid flow rates, and fracturing-fluid viscosity for the appropriate value of the non-dimensional toughness.

Hence, we implemented hydraulic fracturing tests on translucent plexiglass samples, at room temperature with contrasting fracturing fluid viscosities. A modest, biaxial loading frame creates relatively low directed principal stresses (< 1000 psi, or less < 1 km overburden pressure). A sealed fluid conduit generates fluid pressures (< 3000 psi) created by a positive displacement pump. We record microseismic events on the upper and lower faces of a thermally annealed, sample block (13 cm x 13 cm x 10 cm) with 3-component, broadband sensors (101-106). Preliminary results indicate that the dominant frequency band of the microseismic events appears similar for both toughness-dominated and viscous-dominated regimes (101-102 Hz). The experiments in both regimes show rippled crack surfaces although in the toughness-dominated regime, ‘ripples’ are more closely spaced (mm cf. cm). The fracture surfaces show bifurcating, “wish-bone” structures only in the viscous regime.