Modelling rock fracture induced by hydraulic pulses

Xi, Xun and Yang, Shangtong and McDermott, Christopher I. and Shipton, Zoe K. and Fraser-Harris, Andrew and Edlmann, Katriona (2021) Modelling rock fracture induced by hydraulic pulses. Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering, 54 (8). pp. 3977-3994. ISSN 1434-453X (

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Soft cyclic hydraulic fracturing has become an effective technology used in subsurface energy extraction which utilises cyclic hydraulic flow pressure to fracture rock. This new technique induces fatigue of rock to reduce the breakdown pressure and potentially the associated risk of seismicity. To control the fracturing process and achieve desirable fracture networks for enhanced permeability, the rock response under cyclic hydraulic stimulation needs to be understood. However, the mechanism for cyclic stimulation-induced fatigue of rock is rather unclear and to date there is no implementation of fatigue degradation in modelling the rock response under hydraulic cyclic loading. This makes accurate prediction of rock fracture under cyclic hydraulic pressure impossible. This paper develops a numerical method to model rock fracture induced by hydraulic pulses with consideration of rock fatigue. The fatigue degradation is based on S–N curves (S for cyclic stress and N for cycles to failure) and implemented into the constitutive relationship for fracture of rock using in-house FORTRAN scripts and ABAQUS solver. The cohesive crack model is used to simulate discrete crack propagation in the rock which is coupled with hydraulic flow and pore pressure capability. The developed numerical model is validated via experimental results of pulsating hydraulic fracturing of the rock. The effects of flow rate and frequency of cyclic injection on borehole pressure development are investigated. A new loading strategy for pulsating hydraulic fracturing is proposed. It has been found that hydraulic pulses can reduce the breakdown pressure of rock by 10–18% upon 10–4000 cycles. Using the new loading strategy, a slow and steady rock fracture process is obtained while the failure pressure is reduced.


Xi, Xun, Yang, Shangtong ORCID logoORCID:, McDermott, Christopher I., Shipton, Zoe K. ORCID logoORCID:, Fraser-Harris, Andrew and Edlmann, Katriona;