Hydraulic fracturing: new applications for industry
CSIRO's hydraulic fracturing group are gaining greater understanding of hydraulic fracture mechanics and its application to an expanding range of industries.
8 June 2010 | Updated 14 October 2011
Hydraulic fracturing is a core technology in conventional petroleum production and in fast growing areas of unconventional gas, geothermal energy and carbon capture and storage.
It is also a cornerstone of innovative new methods in mining.
The CSIRO hydraulic fracture group combines theoretical development and experimental investigations with application-ready capabilities to provide basic research and novel technologies aligned with the needs of an expanding range of industries.
CSIRO is pioneering new applications for caving-type mining operations, gas drainage, geothermal reservoir development and carbon dioxide storage operations.
Our goal is to understand the complex, multi-scale mechanics of hydraulic fracturing at a fundamental level in order to develop numerical models, monitoring methods, and powerful and flexible hydraulic fracture technologies that support a growing breadth of industries.
Our research areas and scientific focus include:
How hydraulic fractures grow through a rock containing natural fractures.
How multi-scale features of hydraulic fractures can be quantified in the laboratory.
How novel methods for hydraulic fracture monitoring at laboratory and field scales, can be developed with an emphasis on optical and wave methods in the laboratory and tiltmeter monitoring in the field.
How hydraulic fracturing can benefit new and fast growing sectors such as engineered geothermal systems, unconventional gas production and carbon storage as well as established sectors such as mining for which hydraulic fracturing is a novel tool.
Outcomes from our fundamental mechanics studies provide building blocks for a new generation of commercial and research hydraulic fracturing simulators that account for multi-scale processes in hydraulic fracturing and the interaction of hydraulic fractures with natural fractures in the reservoir rock.
We are actively pioneering new applications of hydraulic fracturing to:
- pre-condition ore bodies for caving-type mining operations
- enhanced gas drainage from coal seams
- geothermal reservoir development
- carbon capture and storage operations.
A recent study has demonstrated the significance of examining hydraulic fracture and natural fracture interactions. A mine experiment revealed that the fracture geometry contained multiple offsets where the hydraulic fractures were diverted for some distance along natural fractures.
Numerical modelling of this fracture geometry has shown that the offsets change both the pressure and growth rate of such fractures, which must be accounted for in design work.
The CSIRO hydraulic fracture group combines theoretical development and experimental investigations with application-ready capabilities to provide basic research and novel technologies.
Several novel applications have emerged from CSIRO's research in hydraulic fracturing, which include inducing controlled goaf caving in longwall coal mining and preconditioning ore bodies for block and sub-level caving operations.
The hydraulic fracturing group received a CSIRO medal for development of these two application areas. We have also demonstrated the benefit of stimulation of gas drainage from horizontal in-seam boreholes in coal.
We additionally develop and manufacture special purpose equipment and instrumentation for particular applications or scenarios.
Our group collaborates with several international and Australian universities in hydraulic fracture research, including the:
University of Minnesota, USA (exchanges in hydraulic fracture mechanics)
University of British Columbia, Canada (numerical modelling)
University of Toronto, Canada (large scale rock properties inferred from geological structures)
CSIR South Africa/University of Witwatersrand, South Africa (3D fracture modelling)
University of Queensland, Australia (preconditioning in mining)
University of Adelaide, Australia (experimental and numerical studies).
We work closely and in partnership with industry. A major project with Schlumberger is researching hydraulic fracture tip mechanics, hydraulic fracture of naturally fractured rocks and hydraulic fracture growth through stress contrasts.
Read more about CSIRO Earth Science and Resource Engineering.
Jeffrey RG, Zhang X, Thiercelin M. 2009. Hydraulic fracture offsetting in naturally fractured reservoirs: Quantifying a long-recognized process. Paper SPE 119361. In: Proceedings of the 2009 SPE Hydraulic Fracturing Technology Conference. The Woodlands, Texas. January 19–21.
Jeffrey RG, Bunger AP, Lecampion B, Zhang X, Chen ZR, van As A, Allison DP, De Beer W, Dudley JW, Siebrits E, Thiercelin M, Mainguy M. 2009. Measuring hydraulic fracture growth in naturally fractured rock. Paper SPE 124919. In: Proceedings of the SPE Annual Technology Conference and Exhibition. New Orleans, Los Angeles. October 4–7.
Rohde AH, Bunger AP. 2009. Fluid flow visualisation for hydraulic fracture experiments. In: Proceedings of the Second Thailand Rock Mechanics Symposium. Chonburi, Thailand. March 12–13.
Zhang X, Jeffrey RG, Thiercelin M. 2009. Mechanics of fluid-driven fracture growth in naturally fractured reservoirs with simple network geometries. Journal of Geophysical Research – Solid Earth, in press.
Bunger AP. 2006. A photometry method for measuring the opening of fluid-filled fractures. Measurement Science and Technology. 17: 3237–44.