Cyclical hydraulic pressure pulses reduce breakdown pressure and initiate staged fracture growth in PMMA

Mouli-Castillo, Julien and Kendrick, Jackie E. and Lightbody, Alexander and Fraser-Harris, Andrew and Edlmann, Katriona and McDermott, Christopher Ian and Shipton, Zoe Kai (2024) Cyclical hydraulic pressure pulses reduce breakdown pressure and initiate staged fracture growth in PMMA. Geomechanics and Geophysics for Geo-Energy and Geo-Resources, 10 (1). 65. ISSN 2363-8427 (

[thumbnail of Mouli-Castillo-etal-GGGEGR-2024-Cyclical-hydraulic-pressure-pulses-reduce-breakdown-pressure-and-initiate-staged-fracture-growth]
Text. Filename: Mouli-Castillo-etal-GGGEGR-2024-Cyclical-hydraulic-pressure-pulses-reduce-breakdown-pressure-and-initiate-staged-fracture-growth.pdf
Final Published Version
License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 logo

Download (3MB)| Preview


Using unique experimental equipment on large bench-scale samples of Polymethylmethacrylate, used in the literature as an analogue for shale, we investigate the potential benefits of applying cyclical hydraulic pressure pulses to enhance the near-well connectivity through hydraulic fracturing treatment. Under unconfined and confined stresses, equivalent to a depth of up to 530 m, we use dynamic high-resolution strain measurements from fibre optic cables, complemented by optical recordings of fracture development, and investigate the impact of cyclical hydraulic pressure pulses on the number of cycles to failure in Polymethylmethacrylate at different temperatures. Our results indicate that a significant reduction in breakdown pressure can be achieved. This suggests that cyclic pressure pulses could require lower power consumption, as well as reduced fluid injection volumes and injection rates during stimulation, which could minimise the occurrence of the largest induced seismic events. Our results show that fractures develop in stages under repeated pressure cycles. This suggests that Cyclic Fluid Pressurization Systems could be effective in managing damage build-up and increasing permeability. This is achieved by forming numerous small fractures and reducing the size and occurrence of large fracturing events that produce large seismic events. Our results offer new insight into cyclical hydraulic fracturing treatments and provide a unique data set for benchmarking numerical models of fracture initiation and propagation.