Reactivation of a Propped Hydraulic Fracture

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Erfan Sarvaramini and Dmitry Garagash, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada
The problem of massive fluid injection into a pre-existing fracture has many applications in petroleum industry including underground liquid waste disposal and waterflooding to increase recovery from a hydrocarbon reservoir. Understanding the conditions leading to the re-activation of pre-existing fractures and ensuing propagation is critical for a successful injection project design, and it may also help to mitigate potential environmental hazards, such as contamination of underground aquifers and induced seismicity.

The problem of injection of a low viscosity fluid into a permeable formation can be distinguished from conventional hydraulic fracture by the mechanism of fluid leak-off. In conventional fracturing, high viscosity and cake building properties of injected fluid limit leak-off to a 1-D boundary layer incasing the crack. In the case of injection of low viscosity fluid into a fracture, leak-off and related pore fluid diffusion will take place over wider range of scales, from 1-D to 2 or 3-D.

We consider a pre-existing stationary propped hydraulic fracture with constrained height into which a fluid is injected under constant flow rate. Although the net effective stress on the crack is initially compressive, the proppant keeps the crack open. It is worthwhile to note that during injection and related pressurization of a propped crack, the fracture breakdown is to be achieved prior to the fracture re-opening. Therefore, the effect of the change of the propped fracture storage on the pressurization dynamics can be neglected.

The objective of this work is to study the transient pressurization and the onset of the propagation for a propped fracture. To the end, we formulate and solve a general problem of injection into a fracture accounting for viscous dissipation (i.e. non-uniform pressure distribution). We quantify how the fracture breakdown condition depends upon the rock and fluid properties, the in-situ stress and the fluid injection rate. We also establish a criterion when the assumption of negligible viscous dissipation is justified. The obtained solution is also transportable to the production well test analysis of a fractured well (Cinco et al., SPE 1978).