On the loss of symmetry in toughness dominated hydraulic fractures
Publikationen: Beitrag in Fachzeitschrift › Artikel › Forschung › (peer-reviewed)
- ENSTA Bretagne
- McMaster University Canada
- University of Manitoba
- Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research‐UFZ, Leipzig
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a ubiquitous technique for generating fracture networks in rocks for enhanced geothermal systems or hydrocarbon extraction from shales. For decades, models, numerical simulation tools, and practical guidelines have been based on the assumption that this process generates networks of self-similar parallel cracks. Yet, some field and laboratory observations show asymmetric crack growth, and material heterogeneity is routinely attributed for it. Here, we show that simultaneous growth of multiple parallel cracks is impossible and that a single crack typically propagates asymmetrically in toughness dominated hydraulic fracturing, in which viscous dissipation of the fluid is negligible. In other words, loss of symmetry is a fundamental feature of hydraulic fracturing in a toughness dominated regime and not necessary the result of material heterogeneities. Our findings challenge the assumptions of symmetrical growth of hydraulic fractures commonly made in practice, and point to yet another instability other than material heterogeneity.