Does Low-Viscosity Fracturing Fluid Always Create Complex Fractures?

Zhiqiang Chen, Derek Elsworth, Moran Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Lower viscosity fluids are commonly believed to be able to create more complex fractures in hydraulic fracturing; however, the mechanism remains stubbornly unclear. We use a new grain-scale model with accurate coupling of hydrodynamic forces to simulate the propagation of fluid-driven fracturing. The results clarify that fracturing fluid with a lower viscosity does not always create more complex fractures. The heterogeneity in the rock exerts the principal control on systematic evolution of fracture complexity. In homogeneous rock, low viscosity fluids result in low breakdown pressure, but viscosity exerts little influence on fracture complexity. However, in heterogeneous rock, lower viscosity can lead to more complex network of fracturing. A regime map shows the dependence of fracture complexity on the degree of rock heterogeneity where low viscosity fracturing fluid more readily permeates weak defects and creates complex fracture networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020JB020332
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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