Layered Modulus Effects on Fracture Propagation, Proppant Placement, and Fracture Modeling
- M.B. Smith (NSI Technologies) | A.B. Bale (Statoil) | L.K. Britt (Amoco Production Co.) | H.H. Klein (Jaycor, Inc.) | E. Siebrits (Schlumberger) | X. Dang (Jaycor, Inc.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, 30 September-3 October, New Orleans, Louisiana
- Publication Date
- Document Type
- Conference Paper
- 2001. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 5.5 Reservoir Simulation, 2.4.3 Sand/Solids Control, 1.8 Formation Damage, 2.2.2 Perforating, 5.4.2 Gas Injection Methods, 5.6.4 Drillstem/Well Testing, 3 Production and Well Operations, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 2.5.2 Fracturing Materials (Fluids, Proppant), 3.2.3 Hydraulic Fracturing Design, Implementation and Optimisation, 2.5.1 Fracture design and containment
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Hydraulic fracture geometry (i.e., critical results of length and proppant placement) is driven by four major in situ parameters: Fracture Height (H), Modulus (E), Fluid Loss (C), and "Apparent" Fracture Toughness (KI c-app ). In many (even most) cases, "Height" is the most important of these parameters - due to the need for some height confinement to achieve long fractures, or the need for height growth to insure good pay coverage. Due to this importance, industry research effort and most field measuring techniques concentrate on "Height." In particular, the growing use of seismic imaging is offering a tool to measure height growth away from the wellbore. Results from such diagnostics have often shown, as one expects, that in situ stress variations control height. However, results have also shown situations where this is apparently not the case.
This paper examines another in situ parameter, "Layered Modulus," which also affects height. In addition, by controlling the "local" width of a fracture, layered modulus (i.e., layered formations with different layers having significantly different modulus) can have a critical effect on final proppant placement.
The importance of layered modulus in directly controlling fracture height is illustrated in this paper, and this is compared with published solutions. In general, it is found that, just as concluded in the past, modulus contrast is probably not an important parameter in terms of direct control of fracture height. The greater importance lies in the effects on local fracture width. These local width changes can have a significant influence on controlling proppant placement - and this can be critical for low net pressure cases such as "water fracs" or fracturing in "soft" formations. It is also noted that layered modulus significantly impacts the average width of a fracture, and thus impacts the critical material balance aspects of fracture modeling if not properly accounted for.
Finally, some of the theoretical solution problems created by "Layered Modulus" formations for fracture modeling are discussed and compared. This is done by comparing with 3-D Finite Element (static) solutions, and shows how some common industry "approximations" for layered modulus give incorrect results. Based on this, examples with a fracture propagation model using a finite element-generated stiffness matrix are used to define types of cases where a simple "average" modulus is acceptable, versus cases where more complex calculations are needed.
Six major variables control hydraulic fracturing, fracture geometry, proppant placement, etc. Two of these are the "controllable" variables of fluid viscosity, µ, and pump rate, Q. The remaining four variables are "natural" variables and include:
Height. Fracture height (or more generally fracture geometry) is possibly the most important unknown for fracture design and post-frac production success. Generally, it is recognized that in situ stress differences (the in situ stress profile) is the major controlling factor for this behavior.  At a minimum, in situ stress differences control the maximum fracture height, i.e., if the net pressure is not available to grow through high stress shale layers, then fracture height must be contained. The importance of fracture height/geometry is clear, and there are many research efforts and technical publications addressing this issue. [1-6]
Fluid Loss. Fluid loss is typically characterized for hydraulic fracturing by a fluid loss coefficient, C, which characterizes linear flow fluid loss out of the fracture. This gives the familiar C/ (t-t) form of fluid loss behavior. Again, this variable has been exhaustively discussed in the literature including wall building characteristics of specific fluid systems, effects of natural fractures, behavior of fluid loss additives, etc. [7-16]
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