Mechanisms for the Generation of Complex Fracture Networks: Observations From Slant Core, Analog Models, and Outcrop

Bethany Rysak, Julia F. W. Gale, Stephen E. Laubach, David A. Ferrill
2022 Frontiers in Earth Science  
We use observations of hydraulic fractures in core, outcrop attributes of natural hydraulic fractures, and analogue models, to address how hydraulic fracture networks evolve. A slant core from the Wolfcamp Formation—an unconventional shale hydrocarbon reservoir in the Permian Basin of West Texas—collected within 18 m and 30 m of two hydraulically stimulated horizontal wells, provided an opportunity to examine hydraulic fractures directly. In approximately 183 m of core, 309 calcite-sealed
more » ... l opening-mode fractures and 375 hydraulic fractures were identified. Many hydraulic fractures in the core show complex morphology, including twist-hackle segmentation, diversion, and bifurcation; these structures most commonly develop at lithological bed boundaries and mechanical heterogeneities such as natural fractures and concretions. An outcrop of bed-parallel pavements in the Cretaceous Boquillas Formation in West Texas contains opening-mode fractures that likely formed by natural hydraulic fracturing. Fracture traces provide evidence of twist-hackle segmentation, and are typically associated with bed boundaries and preexisting bed-parallel stylolites. A laboratory study of hydraulic fracturing of 33 synthetic blocks of gypsum and hydrostone revealed fracture steps, diversions, twist hackles, and multiple overlapping fractures together with information on fracture growth directions. These complexities in the fracture network were dominantly nucleated at inclusions used to simulate pre-existing fractures, and as a result of mechanical heterogeneity introduced by the wellbore and perforations. Collectively, our results show that complex fracture networks are produced in hydraulic fracturing of self-sourced reservoir strata. Mechanical stratigraphic boundaries and other heterogeneities are likely to enhance fracture network complexity through the processes of segmentation, diversion, and bifurcation. These processes create multiple fracture strands, resulting in an increased number of hydraulic fractures over those init [...]
doi:10.3389/feart.2022.848012 doaj:231eebee275b48cfb628754748fb4434 fatcat:2y7m6wmjjrf6dczmzgytlwjspq