Transport efficiency and dynamics of hydraulic fracture networks

Till Sachau, Paul D. Bons, Enrique Gomez Rivas

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17 Citations (Scopus)
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Intermittent fluid pulses in the Earth's crust can explain a variety of geological phenomena, for instance the occurrence of hydraulic breccia. Fluid transport in the crust is usually modeled as continuous Darcian flow, ignoring that sufficient fluid overpressure can cause hydraulic fractures as fluid pathways with very dynamic behavior. Resulting hydraulic fracture networks are largely self-organized: opening and healing of hydraulic fractures depends on local fluid pressure, which is, in turn, largely controlled by the fracture network. We develop a crustal-scale 2D computer model designed to simulate this process. To focus on the dynamics of the process we chose a setup as simple as possible. Control factors are constant overpressure at a basal fluid source and a constant “viscous” parameter controlling fracture-healing. Our results indicate that at large healing rates hydraulic fractures are mobile, transporting fluid in intermittent pulses to the surface and displaying a 1/fα behavior. Low healing rates result in stable networks and constant flow. The efficiency of the fluid transport is independent from the closure dynamics of veins or fractures. More important than preexisting fracture networks is the distribution of fluid pressure. A key requirement for dynamic fracture networks is the presence of a fluid pressure gradient.
Original languageEnglish
Article number63
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Physics
Early online date21 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2015

Bibliographical note

This study is carried out within the framework of DGMK (German Society for Petroleum and Coal Science and Technology) research project 718 “Mineral Vein Dynamics Modeling,” which is funded by the companies ExxonMobil Production Deutschland GmbH, GDF SUEZ E&P Deutschland GmbH, RWE Dea AG and Wintershall Holding GmbH, within the basic research programme of the WEG Wirtschaftsverband Erdöl- und Erdgasgewinnung e.V. We thank the companies
for their financial support and their permission to publish our results.
We further acknowledge support by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and Open Access Publishing Fund of University of Tübingen.


  • hydraulic fracturing
  • fracture network
  • fluid flow
  • intermittent fluid flow
  • Earth's crust
  • dynamics fracture network
  • hydraulic breccia


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