Fracture Gradient Prediction and Its Application in Oilfield Operations
- Ben A. Eaton (Continental Oil Co.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- October 1969
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,353 - 1,360
- 1969. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 3 Production and Well Operations, 3.2.3 Hydraulic Fracturing Design, Implementation and Optimisation, 5.1.2 Faults and Fracture Characterisation, 1.11.2 Drilling Fluid Selection and Formulation (Chemistry, Properties), 5.6.1 Open hole/cased hole log analysis, 1.2.3 Rock properties, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 2.4.3 Sand/Solids Control, 4.3.4 Scale, 5.2 Reservoir Fluid Dynamics, 1.1 Well Planning
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In arriving at a new method of predicting formation fracture gradients, it was found that overburden load, Poisson's ratio for rocks, and pressure gradients vary with depth. Although the method was developed specifically for the Gulf Coast, it should be highly reliable for all areas, provided that the variables reflect the conditions in the specific area being considered.
The subject of many discussions and technical papers in the last 20 years has been the prediction of the wellbore pressure gradients that are required to induce or extend fractures in subsurface formations. The subject merits this attention because of the frequently recurring problems that arise from an inability to predict fracture pressure gradients. predict fracture pressure gradients. Encountered in several common types of operations in the oil industry are problems associated with the prediction of formation fracture pressure gradients. When wells are being drilled in both new and old fields, lost circulation is often a very troublesome and expensive problem. Complete loss of circulation has been disastrous problem. Complete loss of circulation has been disastrous in some cases. Many times, such disasters could have been avoided if techniques for calculating fracture pressure gradient had been employed in the well plans, and if casing strings had been set, and mud weight plans had been followed accordingly. In areas of abnormally pressured formations, the prediction of fracture gradients during the well-planning stage is extremely important. In fact, it is as important as the prediction of formation pressure gradients, which has received a great deal of attention in recent years.
There are several published methods used to determine fracture pressure gradients. However, none of these methods appears to be general enough to be used with much reliability in all areas. In 1957, Hubbert and Willis published a classical paper that included the development of an equation used to predict the fracture extension pressure gradient in areas of incipient normal faulting. Overburden stress gradient, formation pore pressure gradient and Poisson's ratio of rocks were the independent variables that were shown to control fracture pressure gradient, the dependent variable.
In 1967, Matthews and Kelly published another fracture pressure gradient equation that is different from that of Hubbert and Willis in that a variable "matrix stress coefficient" concept was utilized. Later the same year, Costley wrote about a similar idea.
Goldsmith and Wilson used a least-squares curve-fitting technique and field data from the Gulf Coast area to correlate fracture pressure gradient with formation pore pressure gradient and formation depth. They noted that the fracture pressure gradient increased with increasing depth while the pore pressure gradient remained constant.
In each of these cases, the problem for which a solution was sought was to determine the bottom-hole pressure gradient required to initiate or extend a pressure gradient required to initiate or extend a fracture. Results of the previous work show that fracture pressure gradient is a function primarily of overburden stress gradient, pore pressure gradient, and the ratio of horizontal to vertical stress. There is argument for a fourth variable in that in many cases breakdown fracture pressure gradient is greater than the fracture extension pressure gradient.
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