Successfully creating multiple hydraulic fractures in horizontal wells is critical for unconventional gas production economically. Optimizing the stimulation of these wells will require models that can account for the simultaneous propagation of multiple, potentially nonplanar, fractures.
In this paper, a novel fracture-propagation model (FPM) is described that can simulate multiple-hydraulic-fracture propagation from a horizontal wellbore. The model couples fracture deformation with fluid flow in the fractures and the horizontal wellbore. The displacement discontinuity method (DDM) is used to represent the mechanics of the fractures and their opening, including interaction effects between closely spaced fractures. Fluid flow in the fractures is determined by the lubrication theory. Frictional pressure drop in the wellbore and perforation zones is taken into account by applying Kirchoff's first and second laws. The fluid-flow rates and pressure compatibility are maintained between the wellbore and the multiple fractures with Newton's numerical method. The model generates physically realistic multiple-fracture geometries and nonplanar-fracture trajectories that are consistent with physical-laboratory results and inferences drawn from microseismic diagnostic interpretations.
One can use the simulation results of the FPM for sensitivity analysis of in-situ and fracture treatment parameters for shale-gas stimulation design. They provide a physics-based complex fracture network that one can import into reservoir-simulation models for production analysis. Furthermore, the results from the model can highlight conditions under which restricted width occurs that could lead to proppant screenout.