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Hydromechanical Modeling of Nonplanar Three-Dimensional Fracture Propagation Using an Iteratively Coupled Approach
  • Dongxiao Zhang,
  • Sanbai Li,
  • Abbas Firoozabadi
Dongxiao Zhang
Southern University of Science and Technology

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Sanbai Li
University of California, Irvine
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Abbas Firoozabadi
Reservoir Eng. Res. Inst.
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Accurate numerical modeling of fracture propagation and deflection in porous media is important in the development of geo-resources. To this end, we propose a novel modeling framework to simulate nonplanar three-dimensional (3-D) fracture growth within poroelastic media, using an iteratively coupled approach based on time-/scale-dependent fracture stiffness. In this approach, the propagating fractures are explicitly tracked and fitted at each growth step using triangular elements that are independent of the matrix discretized by hexahedral grids. The finite volume/finite element method (FVFEM) is employed to solve the hydro-mechanical system, based on the embedded discrete fracture model (EDFM). The calculated pressure in fractures and the stress state of the host grid of the embedded fractures constitute the boundary conditions for the boundary element method (BEM). The BEM module, in turn, renders the evolving fracture stiffness and aperture for the FVFEM module. Finally, the total stresses and the fracture-tip displacements are computed at the end of each time step to estimate the velocity and direction of newly created fractures ahead of the fracture tip. The proposed model is first validated against analytical solutions. Then, in three different examples, results are shown from the fracture’s footprint under layered stress conditions, simultaneous propagation of two nonplanar 3-D fractures, and the mechanical interaction of en échelon arrays. This work presents an efficient framework to simulate propagation of nonplanar fractures, and establishes the foundation to build an integrated simulator for fracture propagation, proppant transport, and production forecasting in unconventional formations.