Research Paper

Acta Geotechnica

, Volume 8, Issue 6, pp 597-618

First online:

A numerical investigation of the hydraulic fracturing behaviour of conglomerate in Glutenite formation

  • Lianchong LiAffiliated withSchool of Civil Engineering, Dalian University of Technology Email author 
  • , Qingmin MengAffiliated withOil Production Technology Research Institute, Shengli Oilfield Branch Company
  • , Shanyong WangAffiliated withCentre for Geotechnical and Materials Modelling, Civil, Surveying and Environmental Engineering, The University of Newcastle
  • , Gen LiAffiliated withSchool of Civil Engineering, Dalian University of Technology
  • , Chunan TangAffiliated withSchool of Civil Engineering, Dalian University of Technology

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Rock formations in Glutenite reservoirs typically display highly variable lithology and permeability, low and complex porosity, and significant heterogeneity. It is difficult to predict the pathway of hydraulic fractures in such rock formations. To capture the complex hydraulic fractures in rock masses, a numerical code called Rock Failure Process Analysis (RFPA2D) is introduced. Based on the characteristics of a typical Glutenite reservoir in China, a series of 2D numerical simulations on the hydraulic fractures in a small-scale model are conducted. The initiation, propagation and associated stress evolution of the hydraulic fracture during the failure process, which cannot be observed in experimental tests, are numerically simulated. Based on the numerical results, the hydraulic fracturing path and features are illustrated and discussed in detail. The influence of the confining stress ratio, gravel sizes (indicated by the diameter variation), and gravel volume content (VC) on the hydraulic fracturing pattern in a conglomerate specimen are numerically investigated, and the breakdown pressure is quantified as a function of these variables. Five hydraulic fracturing modes are identified: termination, deflection, branching (bifurcation), penetration, and attraction. The propagation trajectory of the primary hydraulic fractures is determined by the maximum and minimum stress ratios, although the fracturing path on local scales is clearly influenced by the presence of gravels in the conglomerate, particularly when the gravels are relatively large. As the stress ratio increases, the fractures typically penetrate through the gravels completely rather than propagating around the gravels, and the breakdown pressure decreases with increasing stress ratio. Furthermore, the breakdown pressure is affected by the size and volume content of the gravel in the conglomerate: as the gravel size and volume content increase, the breakdown pressure increases.


Conglomerate Fracture propagation Glutenite reservoir Heterogeneity Hydraulic fracture Numerical simulation