Simulation of non-planar three-dimensional hydraulic fracture propagation

P. Gupta, C. A. Duarte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


SUMMARY: Hydraulic fracturing is the method of choice to enhance reservoir permeability and well efficiency for extraction of shale gas. Multi-stranded non-planar hydraulic fractures are often observed in stimulation sites. Non-planar fractures propagating from wellbores inclined from the direction of maximum horizontal stress have also been reported. The pressure required to propagate non-planar fractures is in general higher than in the case of planar fractures. Current computational methods for the simulation of hydraulic fractures generally assume single, symmetric, and planar crack geometries. In order to better understand hydraulic fracturing in complex-layered naturally fractured reservoirs, fully 3D models need to be developed. In this paper, we present simulations of 3D non-planar fracture propagation using an adaptive generalized FEM. This method greatly facilitates the discretization of complex 3D fractures, as finite element faces are not required to fit the crack surfaces. A solution strategy for fully automatic propagation of arbitrary 3D cracks is presented. The fracture surface on which pressure is applied is also automatically updated at each step. An efficient technique to numerically integrate boundary conditions on crack surfaces is also proposed and implemented. Strongly graded localized refinement and analytical asymptotic expansions are used as enrichment functions in the neighborhood of fracture fronts to increase the computational accuracy and efficiency of the method. Stress intensity factors with pressure on crack faces are extracted using the contour integral method. Various non-planar crack geometries are investigated to demonstrate the robustness and flexibility of the proposed simulation methodology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1397-1430
Number of pages34
JournalInternational Journal for Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics
Issue number13
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • Contour integral method
  • Fracture propagation
  • GFEM
  • Hydraulic fracturing
  • Mixed mode
  • Stress intensity factor
  • XFEM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • General Materials Science
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Mechanics of Materials


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