An implicit level set algorithm for hydraulic fracturing with a stress-layer asymptote

A. V. Valov, E. V. Dontsov, A. N. Baykin, S. V. Golovin

The capability to simulate a hydraulic fracturing process is an essential tool that can be used to optimize treatment design and increase the efficiency of field operations. In most practical cases, hydraulic fractures propagate in a multi-layered rock formation. As a result, there is a need to incorporate the effect of such heterogeneities in fracturing models to achieve an accurate prediction. To capture the layered structure of rocks, a hydraulic fracture simulator typically requires a fine mesh, which leads to a drastic reduction in computational performance. An alternative is to use more sophisticated models that are capable of providing reasonably accurate predictions even on a relatively coarse mesh. In the case of fracture growth modeling, the pivotal component of the simulation is a fracture front tracking algorithm that accounts for the layered structure of the formation. Consequently, this paper aims to extend the established Implicit Level Set Algorithm (ILSA) to account for the effect of multiple stress layers within the tip asymptote. The enhanced front tracking algorithm involves the stress-corrected asymptote that incorporates the influence of stress layers within the near-tip region. To further increase the validity region of the stress-corrected asymptote, the stress relaxation factor is introduced, and its accuracy is examined. The numerical algorithm is validated against the reference semi-analytical solutions as well as experimental observations. In addition, we investigate the sensitivity of the fracture geometry to mesh size to demonstrate that the front tracking algorithm based on the stress-corrected asymptote retains its accuracy on a coarse mesh.

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