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Fluid Injection Under Differential Confinement

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Laboratory studies of cavity initiation and propagation in weak or cohesionless materials rely on post-test observations to assess fracture geometry. The experimental setup in this work is a Hele-Shaw cell, which allows for visualization of cavity initiation and propagation within the sand pack, modified to apply differential confinement to a fully 3D specimen. Injection experiments with glycerine at different concentrations and at varying injection rates were conducted with anisotropic boundary conditions on loose sand. The fracture initiation and evolution were observed under various flow rates and viscosities. Infiltration and dislocation of particles were the main mechanisms observed in the tests. Fracture-like channels initially developed in a circular shape due to cavity expansion but then formed rod shapes (shear bands, material fluidization) where an anisotropic stress was applied. This transition from circular to elongated cavity appeared earlier in the tests with higher viscosity fluids, while higher injection rates produced wider openings as the larger volume of fluid was able to displace more particles. Although the cavity showed directionality in all cases, it became less confined to the propagating plane as the flow rate increased. For higher viscosities, the cavities tended to be more circular, whilst for lower viscosities, the cavities showed more directionality.

Article Highlights.

  • The experimental setup allows for visualization of cavity propagation in a 3D sandpack specimen.

  • Infiltration and dislocation of particles were the main mechanisms observed in theexperiments.

  • Channels initially developed in

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The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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This work has been carried out at the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. We thank Chris Knight and Maria Potamiali for their help. The authors acknowledge the funding and technical support from bp through the bp International Centre for Advanced Materials (bp-ICAM) which made this research possible.

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CK was involved in conceptualization, methodology, investigation, formal analysis, software, writing—original draft. RKK contributed to methodology, investigation, formal analysis, writing—review and editing. CW was involved in software, data curation, formal analysis, writing—review and editing. GB contributed to conceptualization, formal analysis, writing—review and editing, funding acquisition, supervision.

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Correspondence to Charalampos Konstantinou.

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Konstantinou, C., Kandasami, R.K., Wilkes, C. et al. Fluid Injection Under Differential Confinement. Transp Porous Med 139, 627–650 (2021).

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