Hydraulic fracture propagation in a highly laminated shale reservoir with complex natural fracture network - Case study using higher-accuracy, full 3-D simulation

Maaruf Hussain, Bilal Saad, Ardiansyah Negara, Mokhtar Elgassier, Gaurav Agrawal, Shuyu Sun, King Abdullah

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

3 Scopus citations


It is often reported that around 60% of hydraulic fracturing stages are ineffective. If so, it is likely that the design accuracy is limited by the current state of modeling and hydraulic fracture (HF) simulations. Our study presents a new alternative - a full 3-D simulation with geomechanics coupled to fluid flow. With the conventional simulation, it is extremely hard to model opening of weak lamination (Lam) and nearly impossible to generate induced horizontal fractures against the vertical overburden stress. However, horizontal fractures are routinely evident in shale reservoirs as healed fractures observed along the bedding planes. Hence, the need and importance of a true 3-D simulator that could incorporate complex geology and dynamically simulate fracture propagation by accounting for realtime changes in geomechanics and fluid pressures. Case study uses shale reservoirs, which are heavily laminated with complex natural fractures (NFs). Numerical simulations consisted of four separate coupled modules - geomechanics, hydrodynamics, a geomechanical joint model for interfacial resolution, and an adaptive remeshing module. Reservoir stress condition, rock mechanical properties, and injected fluid pressure dictate how fracture elements could open or slide. Critical stress intensity factor was used as a fracture criterion governing the generation of new fractures or propagation of existing fractures and their directions. Simulation was run on a Cray XC-40 HPC system. Typical laminated shale reservoirs anisotropic geomechanical properties obtained from literature were used to estimate a 3-D geomechanical model and NF network. HF geometry was significantly different in the presence of weak bedding, compared to when bedding was strong enough to transmit crack tip stresses across the interface. Significant amounts of fracturing fluid can be diverted into creation of horizontal fractures, even when the pressure was below the vertical stress, once bedding discontinuities are activated. Choices of NF network and Lam thickness significantly affected observed fracture propagation. The value of 3-D modeling was clearly established. This method provides more accurate solutions for stimulation design optimization, e.g., landing points, number of stages, number of clusters, spacing between stages, and stimulated reservoir volume.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSociety of Petroleum Engineers - SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, ATCE 2016
PublisherSociety of Petroleum Engineers (SPE)
ISBN (Electronic)9781613994634
StatePublished - 2016
EventSPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, ATCE 2016 - Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Duration: Sep 26 2016Sep 28 2016

Publication series

NameProceedings - SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition


OtherSPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, ATCE 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited Arab Emirates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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