Damage Analysis of High-Temperature Rocks Subjected to LN2 Thermal Shock

  • Xiaoguang Wu
  • Zhongwei Huang
  • Shikun Zhang
  • Zhen Cheng
  • Ran Li
  • Hengyu Song
  • Haitao Wen
  • Pengpeng Huang
Original Paper


Liquid nitrogen (LN2) fracturing is a technology that can dramatically enhance the stimulation performances of high-temperature reservoirs, such as hot dry rock geothermal and deep/ultra-deep hydrocarbon reservoirs. The aim of the present study was to investigate the damage characteristics of high-temperature rocks subjected to LN2 thermal shock, which is a critical concern in the engineering application of LN2 fracturing. In our work, the rocks (granite, shale and sandstone) were slowly heated to different temperatures (25 °C, 150 °C and 260 °C) and maintained at the target temperatures for 10 h, followed by LN2 quenching. After thermal treatments, we tested the physical and mechanical properties of the rocks to evaluate their damages. Additionally, sensitivities of the three rocks to thermal shock were also compared and analyzed. According to our experiments, LN2 thermal shock can enhance the permeability of the rocks and deteriorate their mechanical properties significantly. Increasing rock temperature helps strengthen the effect of LN2 thermal shock, leading to more severe damage. Inter-granular cracking is the primary contribution to the rock damage in the LN2 cooling process. Compared with granite and shale, sandstone is less sensitive to LN2 thermal shock. The lower sensitivity of sandstone to thermal shock is mainly attributed to its larger pore spaces and weaker heterogeneity of mineral thermal expansion. The present paper can provide some guidance for the engineering application of LN2 fracturing technology.


Rock damage Thermal shock Rapid cooling Liquid nitrogen Waterless fracturing 

List of Symbols


P-wave velocity (m/s)


Confining pressure, MPa


Pore pressure (MPa)

\(\Delta {P_{\text{o}}}\)

Upstream pressure increment (KPa)


Downstream pressure (MPa)


Time (min)


Upstream volume (mL)


Downstream volume (mL)


Length of rock sample (m)


Cross area of rock sample (m2)


Dynamic viscosity of nitrogen (1.8 × 10− 5 Pa s)


Permeability after heating and LN2 cooling, × 10− 3µm2


Permeability after heating and air cooling, × 10− 3µm2

\({\Delta _K}\)

Thermal shock induced permeability growth rate, %


Permeability, × 10−3µm2


Young’s modulus, GPa

\({\sigma _{{\text{ca}}}}\)

Compression strength after heating and air cooling, MPa

\({\sigma _{{\text{cl}}}}\)

Compression strength after heating and LN2 cooling, MPa

\(\Delta {\sigma _{\text{c}}}\)

Thermal shock-induced strength reduction rate, %


Standard deviation


Content of quartz, %


Variation coefficient


Temperature, ℃


Average thermal expansion coefficient, /℃

\({\beta _{\text{q}}}\)

Thermal expansion coefficient of quartz, /℃

\({\beta _{{\text{nq}}}}\)

Average thermal expansion coefficient of non-quartz minerals, /℃



This work was supported by the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars (No. 51725404) and the ‘111’ project of China (No. 110000203920170063).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaoguang Wu
    • 1
  • Zhongwei Huang
    • 1
  • Shikun Zhang
    • 1
  • Zhen Cheng
    • 1
  • Ran Li
    • 1
  • Hengyu Song
    • 1
  • Haitao Wen
    • 1
  • Pengpeng Huang
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Petroleum Resources and ProspectingChina University of Petroleum-BeijingBeijingChina

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