Numerical modeling of complex hydraulic fracture propagation in layered reservoirs with auto-optimization

Wang, Jiacheng, Ph. D.
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Hydraulic fracturing brings economic unconventional reservoir developments, and multi-cluster completion designs result in complex hydraulic fracture geometries. Therefore, accurate yet efficient modeling of the propagation of multiple non-planar hydraulic fractures is desired to study the mechanisms of hydraulic fracture propagation and optimize field completion designs.

In this research, a novel hydraulic fracture model is developed to simulate the propagation of multiple hydraulic fractures with proppant transport in layered and naturally fractured reservoirs. The simplified three-dimensional displacement discontinuity method (S3D DDM) is enhanced to compute the hydraulic fracture deformation and propagation with analytical fracture height growth and vertical width variation. Using a single row of DDM elements, the enhanced S3D DDM hydraulic fracture model computes the fully 3D geometries with a similar computational intensity to a 2D model. Then an Eulerian-Lagrangian proppant transport model is developed, where the slurry flow rate and pressure are solved within the Eulerian regime, and the movement of solid proppant particles is solved within the Lagrangian regime. The adaptive proppant gridding scheme in the model allows a smaller grid size at the earlier fracturing stage for higher resolution and a larger grid size at the later fracturing stage for higher efficiency. Besides the physical model, an optimization module that utilizes advanced optimization algorithms such as genetic algorithm (GA) and pattern search algorithm (PSA) is proposed to automatically optimize the completion designs according to the preset targets.

Numerical results show that hydraulic fracture propagation is under the combined influence of the in-situ stress, pumping schedule, natural fractures, and cluster placement. Hence, numerical simulation is needed to predict complex hydraulic fracture geometries under various geologic and completion settings. The complex hydraulic fracture geometries, together with fracturing fluid and proppant properties, also affect proppant placement. Moreover, the stress contrast at layer interfaces can cause proppant bridging and form barriers on the proppant transport path. The optimized completion designs increase effective hydraulic and propped areas, but they vary depending on the optimization targets. The developed hydraulic fracture model provides insights into the hydraulic fracturing process and benefits unconventional reservoir development.