An unstructured mesh algorithm for simulation of hydraulic fracture

John Napier, Emmanuel Detournay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The paper describes a flexible computational method that can be used to represent the complex geometric evolution of a fluid-driven fracture front using an unstructured triangular element mesh. A specific motivation for the method is to allow subsequent treatment of non-planar fracture growth problems. Elastic interactions between the crack opening displacements and the surrounding medium are calculated using displacement discontinuity boundary element influence functions. A novel feature of the approach is the use of an adjustable region of tip elements to accommodate both time-dependent crack edge movements and to ensure correct velocity-dependent asymptotic behavior for viscous and viscous-toughness flow conditions. The adjustable tip element region is represented using a special-purpose data structure that allows the iteration of the moving edge element vertices to be linked directly to the flow rate and the crack opening solution values that are determined in each time step. The fringe region is periodically replaced with a set of fixed vertex elements as the fracture surface evolves. The proposed scheme has been evaluated using available analytic and experimental results for planar fracture propagation. The method is found to be both accurate and robust for a range of choices of geometric fracture shapes and time step sizes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109691
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
StatePublished - Oct 15 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Inc.


  • Hydraulic fracture
  • Moving boundary
  • Unstructured mesh


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