Hydraulic fractures are tensile cracks that propagate in pre-stressed solid media due to the injection of a viscous fluid. Developing numerical schemes to model the propagation of these fractures is particularly challenging due to the degenerate, hypersingular nature of the coupled integro-partial differential equations. These equations typically involve a singular free boundary whose velocity can only be determined by evaluating a distinguished limit. This review paper describes a class of numerical schemes that have been developed to use the multiscale asymptotic behaviour typically encountered near the fracture boundary as multiple physical processes compete to determine the evolution of the fracture. The fundamental concepts of locating the free boundary using the tip asymptotics and imposing the tip asymptotic behaviour in a weak form are illustrated in two quite different formulations of the governing equations. These formulations are the displacement discontinuity boundary integral method and the extended finite-element method. Practical issues are also discussed, including new models for proppant transport able to capture ‘tip screen-out’; efficient numerical schemes to solve the coupled nonlinear equations; and fast methods to solve resulting linear systems. Numerical examples are provided to illustrate the performance of the numerical schemes. We conclude the paper with open questions for further research.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Energy and the subsurface’.
One contribution of 12 to a theme issue ‘Energy and the subsurface’.
- Accepted July 22, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.