Integrated Experimental and Computational Study of Hydraulic Fracturing and the Use of Alternative Fracking Fluids
Monday, 15 December 2014
Shale gas is an unconventional fossil energy resource that is already having a profound impact on US energy independence and is projected to last for at least 100 years. Production of methane and other hydrocarbons from low permeability shale involves hydrofracturing of rock, establishing fracture connectivity, and multiphase fluid-flow and reaction processes all of which are poorly understood. The result is inefficient extraction with many environmental concerns. A science-based capability is required to quantify the governing mesoscale fluid-solid interactions, including microstructural control of fracture patterns and the interaction of engineered fluids with hydrocarbon flow. These interactions depend on coupled thermo-hydro-mechanical-chemical (THMC) processes over scales from microns to tens of meters. Determining the key mechanisms in subsurface THMC systems has been impeded due to the lack of sophisticated experimental methods to measure fracture aperture and connectivity, multiphase permeability, and chemical exchange capacities at the high temperature, pressure, and stresses present in the subsurface. This project uses innovative high-pressure microfluidic and triaxial core flood experiments on shale to explore fracture-permeability relations and the extraction of hydrocarbon. These data are integrated with simulations including lattice Boltzmann modeling of pore-scale processes, finite-element/discrete element models of fracture development in the near-well environment, discrete-fracture modeling of the reservoir, and system-scale models to assess the economics of alternative fracturing fluids. The ultimate goal is to make the necessary measurements to develop models that can be used to determine the reservoir operating conditions necessary to gain a degree of control over fracture generation, fluid flow, and interfacial processes over a range of subsurface conditions.