A Percolation Model for Fracking

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 8:30 AM
J. Quinn Norris, Donald L Turcotte and John B Rundle, University of California Davis, Davis, CA, United States
Developments in fracking technology have enabled the recovery of vast reserves of oil and gas; yet, there is very little publicly available scientific research on fracking. Traditional reservoir simulator models for fracking are computationally expensive, and require many hours on a supercomputer to simulate a single fracking treatment. We have developed a computationally inexpensive percolation model for fracking that can be used to understand the processes and risks associated with fracking. In our model, a fluid is injected from a single site and a network of fractures grows from the single site. The fracture network grows in bursts, the failure of a relatively strong bond followed by the failure of a series of relatively weak bonds. These bursts display similarities to micro seismic events observed during a fracking treatment. The bursts follow a power-law (Gutenburg-Richter) frequency-size distribution and have growth rates similar to observed earthquake moment rates. These are quantifiable features that can be compared to observed microseismicity to help understand the relationship between observed microseismicity and the underlying fracture network.