Toughness-dominated near-surface hydraulic fracture experiments

Andrew P. Bunger, Robert G. Jeffrey, Emmanuel Detournay

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Understanding and modeling near-surface hydraulic fracture growth is of interest because fracturing is being used to induce caving near mine openings and for remediation work at shallow environmental waste or spill sites. Thus motivated, near-surface hydraulic fracturing experiments were performed in Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA). The fractures were driven under conditions such that the internal fluid pressure may be assumed uniform, that is, propagation was in the so-called toughness-dominated regime. As the fractures extend they interact with the free surface and grow towards it, producing a bowl-shaped fracture that eventually daylights at the surface. Injection pressure, fluid injection rate, fracture radius, and surface displacement were monitored during each test. Additionally, an experimental technique that is based on the Beer-Lambert law of light absorption was developed which enables measurement of the full-field opening of hydraulic fractures in transparent materials. The experimental results for opening and radius compare within 10% of published numerical results - which ignore the fracture curving effect - for a toughness-dominated hydraulic fracture. There is greater than 30% difference between the data and published model results for the injection pressure, and reasons for this discrepancy are discussed. Tests were performed with between zero and 12 MPa of radially-directed confining stress. Examination of the shape of the resulting fractures suggests that the radius of the fracture when it daylights is three times the initial depth when radial confinement is zero. The fracture shape data together with scaling considerations suggest a simple empirical relationship whereby the daylighting fracture radius increases with the magnitude of the radial confinement. The findings of this study, in addition to providing guidelines applicable to field design of near-surface fractures, also clearly expose the successes and areas for improvement associated with recent modeling efforts. The paper concludes with a discussion of ongoing research directed at developing a more complete mechanistic model of near-surface hydraulic fracture growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2004
Event6th North America Rock Mechanics Symposium: Rock Mechanics Across Borders and Disciplines, NARMS 2004 - Houston, United States
Duration: Jun 5 2004Jun 9 2004


Other6th North America Rock Mechanics Symposium: Rock Mechanics Across Borders and Disciplines, NARMS 2004
Country/TerritoryUnited States

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to acknowledge funding from the Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP). Additional support has been provided by CSIRO Petroleum, the Theodore Bennett Chair, and Schlumberger.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright 2004, ARMA, American Rock Mechanics Association.


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