CT Identification and Fractal Characterization of 3-D Propagation and Distribution of Hydrofracturing Cracks in Low-Permeability Heterogeneous Rocks

Peng Liu, Yang Ju, Feng Gao, Pathegama G. Ranjith, Qianbing Zhang

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27 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding and characterization of the three-dimensional (3-D) propagation and distribution of hydrofracturing cracks in heterogeneous rock are key for enhancing the stimulation of low-permeability petroleum reservoirs. In this study, we investigated the propagation and distribution characteristics of hydrofracturing cracks, by conducting true triaxial hydrofracturing tests and computed tomography on artificial heterogeneous rock specimens. Silica sand, Portland cement, and aedelforsite were mixed to create artificial heterogeneous rock specimens using the data of mineral compositions, coarse gravel distribution, and mechanical properties that were measured from the natural heterogeneous glutenite cores. To probe the effects of material heterogeneity on hydrofracturing cracks, the artificial homogenous specimens were created using the identical matrix compositions of the heterogeneous rock specimens and then fractured for comparison. The effects of horizontal geostress ratio on the 3-D growth and distribution of cracks during hydrofracturing were examined. A fractal-based method was proposed to characterize the complexity of fractures and the efficiency of hydrofracturing stimulation of heterogeneous media. The material heterogeneity and horizontal geostress ratio were found to significantly influence the 3-D morphology, growth, and distribution of hydrofracturing cracks. A horizontal geostress ratio of 1.7 appears to be the upper limit for the occurrence of multiple cracks, and higher ratios cause a single crack perpendicular to the minimum horizontal geostress component. The fracturing efficiency is associated with not only the fractured volume but also the complexity of the crack network.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2156-2173
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • crack propagation
  • fractal models
  • heterogeneous rock
  • horizontal geostress ratio
  • hydrofracturing
  • multiple fractures

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