The role of rock matrix permeability in controlling hydraulic fracturing in sandstones

Marco Fazio, Peter Ibemesi, Philip Benson, Diego Bedoya-González, Martin Sauter

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A concomitant effect of a hydraulic fracturing experimenting is frequently fluid permeation into the rock matrix, with the injected fluid permeating through the porous rock matrix (leak-off) rather than contributing to the buildup of borehole pressure, thereby slowing down or impeding the hydro-fracturing process. Different parameters, such as low fluid viscosity, low injection rate and high rock permeability, contribute to fluid permeation. This effect is particularly prominent in highly permeable materials, therefore, making sleeve fracturing tests (where an internal jacket separates the injected fluid in the borehole from the porous rock matrix) necessary to generate hydraulic fractures. The side effect, however, is an increase in pressure breakdown, which results in higher volume of injected fluid and in higher seismic activity. To better understand this phenomenon, we report data from a new comparative study from a suite of micro-hydraulic fracturing experiments on highly permeable and on low-permeability rock samples. Experiments were conducted in both sleeve fracture and direct fluid fracture modes using two different injection rates. Consistent with previous studies, our results show that hydraulic fracturing occurred only with low permeation, either due to the intrinsic low permeability or due to the presence of an inner silicon rubber sleeve. In particular, due to the presence of quasi-impermeable inner sleeve or borehole skin in the sleeve fracturing experiment, fracturing occurs, with the breakdown pressure supporting the linear elastic approach considering poroelastic effects, therefore, with low stress drop and consequently low microseismicity. Rock matrix permeability also controls the presence of precursory Acoustic Emission activity, as this is linked to the infiltration of fluids and consequent expansion of the pore space. Finally, permeability is shown to mainly control fracturing speed, because the permeation of fluid into the newly created fracture via the highly permeable rock matrix slows down its full development. The application of these results to the field may help to reduce induced seismicity and to conduct well stimulation in a more efficient way.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5269-5294
JournalRock Mechanics and Rock Engineering
Early online date30 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • permeability
  • hydraulic fracturing
  • acoustic emissions
  • fracture propagation speed
  • fluid permeation
  • leak-off


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