Thermal reactivation of microfractures and its potential impact on hydraulic-fracture efficiency

A. Dahi Taleghani, M. Ahmadi, W. Wang, Jon E. Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Core studies have revealed the presence of abundant cemented microfractures in many tight formations. Further independent studies have revealed the opening of some of these microfractures on the wall surface of main hydraulic fractures. In addition, early-production well-testing analysis in some of these cases provides estimates for the hydraulically-induced-fracture surface area, which is much larger than fracture dimensions estimated in fracturing design or provided by the location of microseismic events. Opening of small-sized fractures could be a possible reason for this discrepancy. In this paper, we show to what extent thermal stresses induced by temperature difference between fracturing fluid and formation fluid could provide the driving force to open a portion of these small, cemented natural fractures lying on the surface of hydraulic fractures. Moreover, through combination of stress analysis and empirical fracture-distribution models obtained from outcrops, we calculate the increase of total reservoir/fracture contact surface under the condition of microfracture activation. Our thermoelasticity analysis reveals the effect of the pump rate and temperature of the fracturing fluid on the number of activated microfractures. The results show that the volume of the microfractures varies depending on the length of the microfracture, rock properties, and time. At the end of the paper, through an example, we show that activation of only a small portion of these microfractures can increase the total fracture/formation contact area considerably and, consequently, increase initial production. Reservoir-pressure changes caused by production might partially close or reopen these microcracks during production; hence, the effectiveness of these microfractures could be mainly restricted to the early life of the reservoirs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)761-770
Number of pages10
JournalSPE Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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