Acta Geotechnica

, Volume 8, Issue 6, pp 597–618 | Cite as

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

  • Lianchong Li
  • Qingmin Meng
  • Shanyong Wang
  • Gen Li
  • Chunan Tang
Research Paper


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 

List of symbols


Shape parameter in Weibull’s distribution, defined as homogeneity index


Total stress

\( \sigma_{ij}^{\prime } \)

Effective stress






Components of the net body force


Lame coefficient


Shear deformation modulus


Coefficient of the pore water pressure


Pore water pressure


Permeability of element under stress and damage, initial permeability of intact element


Biot’s constant


Permeability increase factor


Coupling parameter that reflects the influence of stress on the coefficient of permeability


Damage parameters, D = 0–1 depends on the loading history of the element


Initial Young’s Modulus and Young’s modulus for damaged element


Tensile strength of element


The peak tensile strength of element


Residual tensile strength of damaged element

\( \varepsilon_{t0} \)

Strain at the elastic limit, which is the so-called threshold strain for tensile damage

\( \varepsilon_{tu} \)

Ultimate tensile strain


Internal friction angle


Uniaxial compressive strength of element


The peak uniaxial compressive strength of element


Residual compressive strength of damaged element

\( \varepsilon_{c0} \)

Strain at the elastic limit, which is the so-called threshold strain for shear damage


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lianchong Li
    • 1
  • Qingmin Meng
    • 2
  • Shanyong Wang
    • 3
  • Gen Li
    • 1
  • Chunan Tang
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Civil EngineeringDalian University of TechnologyDalianChina
  2. 2.Oil Production Technology Research InstituteShengli Oilfield Branch CompanyDongyingChina
  3. 3.Centre for Geotechnical and Materials Modelling, Civil, Surveying and Environmental EngineeringThe University of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia

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