Veining Failure and Hydraulic Fracturing in Shales

Monday, 15 December 2014
Saied Mighani, Carl H Sondergeld and Chandra S Rai, University of Oklahoma Norman Campus, Norman, OK, United States
During the hydraulic fracturing, the pressurized fluid creates new fractures and reactivates existing natural fractures forming a highly conductive Stimulated Reservoir Volume (SRV) around the borehole. We extend the previous work on Lyons sandstone and pyrophyllite to anisotropic shale from the Wolfcamp formation. We divide the rock anisotropy into two groups: a) conventional and b) unconventional (shaly) anisotropy. X-ray Computed Tomography (CT), compressional velocity anisotropy, and SEM analysis are used to identify three causes of anisotropy: bedding planes, clay lamination, and calcite veins. Calcite vein is a subsequently filled with calcite bonded weakly to the matrix. Velocity anisotropy and visual observations demonstrate the calcite filled veins to be mostly subparallel to the fabric direction. Brazilian tests are carried out to observe the fracture initiation and propagation under tension. High speed photography (frame rate 300,000 frame/sec) was used to capture the failure. Strain gauges and Acoustic Emission (AE) sensors recorded the deformation leading up to and during failure. SEM imaging and surface profilometry were employed to study the post-failure fracture system and failed surface topology. Fracture permeability was measured as a function of effective stress. Brazilian tests on small disks containing a centered single vein revealed the shear strength of the veins.

We interpret the strain data and number, frequency, and amplitude of AE events which are correlated well with the observed fracture process zone, surface roughness, and permeability. The unpropped fracture has enhanced permeability by two orders of magnitude. The observed anisotropic tensile failure seems to have a universal trend with a minimum strength occurring at 15o orientation with respect to the loading axis. The veins at 15o orientation with respect to the loading axis were easily activated at 30% of the original failure load. The measured strength of the vein is as low as 6% of the matrix. Surface roughness measurements show the vein to be as rough as the main tensile fracture in the matrix. The observations suggest that fracking through a deviated well reduces the breakdown pressure significantly and can activate a large number of veins with enhanced conductivity without the need for excessive proppant injection.