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Does low-viscosity fracturing fluid always create complex fractures?
  • Zhiqiang Chen,
  • Derek Elsworth,
  • Moran Wang
Zhiqiang Chen
Tsinghua University
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Derek Elsworth
Pennsylvania State University
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Moran Wang
Tsinghua University

Corresponding Author:moralwang@gmail.com

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Lower-viscosity fluids are commonly believed to be able to create more complex fractures in hydraulic fracturing, however, the mechanism remains stubbornly unclear. We use a new grain-scale model with accurate coupling of hydrodynamic forces to simulate the propagation of fluid-driven fracturing. The results clarify that fracturing fluid with a lower viscosity does not always create more complex fractures. The heterogeneity in the rock exerts the principal control on systematic evolution of fracture complexity. In homogeneous rock, low viscosity fluids result in low breakdown pressure, but viscosity exerts little influence on fracture complexity. However, in heterogeneous rock, lower viscosity can lead to more complex network of fracturing. A regime map shows the dependence of fracture complexity on the degree of rock heterogeneity where low viscosity fracturing fluid more readily permeates weak defects and creates complex fracture networks.
Sep 2020Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth volume 125 issue 9. 10.1029/2020JB020332