Orientation Criteria of Fracture Initiation in Poroelastic Media: Application in Unconventional Reservoirs

Michael, Andreas (Louisiana State University) | Gupta, Ipsita (Louisiana State University)



Analytically-derived criteria are presented for the orientation of fracture initiation from horizontal wellbores drilled in porous-permeable (poroelastic) media. This involves drilling-induced tensile fractures (DITFs) from non-perforated wellbores and completion-induced hydraulic fractures (CIHFs) from perforated wellbores with cylindrical perforation geometry. The criteria are developed considering the tangential stresses on two points (extremes) around the base of the perforation; one for the initiation of longitudinal fractures and another for the initiation of transverse fractures, with respect to the wellbore. In-situ stress state, wellbore pressure, and the formation's mechanical and poroelastic properties are independent variables that are shown to control the orientation of the initiated hydraulic fractures; the dependent variable.

The DITF orientation can be used to constrain the magnitude of the maximum horizontal stress; the most difficult aspect of the in-situ stress tensor to constrain. Transverse CIHF initiation only occurs over a narrow wellbore pressure-at-breakdown window, while longitudinal initiation occurs at comparatively higher wellbore pressures. However, transverse CIHF initiation occurs more frequently than transverse DITFs, because the presence of perforations aids transverse fracture initiation. The region of the in-situ stress states where transverse initiation is promoted is shown in dimensionless plots for perforated and non-perforated wellbores. Fracture initiation criteria for specific cases presented can be used to predict the orientation of fracture initiation in oilfield operations.

The orientation of CIHFs controls the productivity of hydrocarbon reservoirs. Productivity from low permeability formations is greatly improved having multiple fractures oriented transversely rather than longitudinally, relative to a horizontal wellbore. Fracture initiation often follows a plane different to the final fracture propagation plane. Stress re-orientation in the near-wellbore region may promote fracture initiation of different orientation than the orientation dictated by the far-field stresses. The range of in-situ stress states in which transverse fracture initiation is promoted increases as Biot's poroelastic coefficient, αB decreases and formation Poisson's ratio, ν increases. Case studies ran on unconventional shale plays and the likely orientation of fracture initiation from perforated horizontal wells is discussed. The results indicate higher confidence in transverse CIHF initiation when poroelastic rocks are considered, compared to previous models developed for linearly-elastic rocks, nevertheless numerical modeling is necessary to assess the criterion, because of approximations involved in its derivation.