Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering

, Volume 52, Issue 12, pp 5137–5160 | Cite as

Investigating Hydraulic Fracturing Complexity in Naturally Fractured Rock Masses Using Fully Coupled Multiscale Numerical Modeling

  • Fengshou ZhangEmail author
  • Branko Damjanac
  • Shawn Maxwell
Original Paper


Naturally fractured rock mass is highly inhomogeneous and contains geological discontinuities at various length scales. Hydraulic fracture stimulation in such a medium could result in complex fracture systems instead of simple planar fractures. In this study, we carried out fully coupled multiscale numerical analysis to investigate some key coupled processes of fluid-driven fracture propagation in naturally fractured rock mass. The numerical analysis follows the concept of the synthetic rock mass (SRM) method initially developed in the discrete element method (DEM). We introduce a total of five case study examples, including fracture initiation and near wellbore tortuosity, hydraulic fracture interaction with natural fractures, multi-stage hydraulic fracturing with discrete fracture network (DFN), in-fill well fracturing and frac hits after depletion-induced stress change, and induced seismicity associated with fault reactivation. Through those case studies, we demonstrate that with an advanced numerical modeling tool, the complex fracturing associated with hydraulic fracturing in naturally fractured rock mass can be qualitatively analyzed and the extent of various uncertainties can be assessed.


Hydraulic fracturing Naturally fractured rock mass Fracturing complexity Near wellbore tortuosity Frac hits Induced seismicity 



This paper was prepared based on the 2018 ARMA Early Career Keynote Lecture delivered by the first author, FZ. The authors would like to thank ARMA for the invitation of preparing this keynote paper. FZ acknowledges the financial support by the National Key R&D Program of China (2017YFC1500703), the National Natural Science Foundation of China under grant 41772286 and PetroChina Innovation Foundation under grant 2018D-5007-0202. We thank guest editor Richard Schulz and an anonymous reviewer for the insightful comments which help to improve the paper.


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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Geotechnical and Underground Engineering of Ministry of EducationTongji UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Department of Geotechnical Engineering, College of Civil EngineeringTongji UniversityShanghaiChina
  3. 3.Itasca Consulting Group, Inc.MinneapolisUSA
  4. 4.MaxSeis LLC.CalgaryCanada

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