Despite the impact that hydraulic fracturing has had on the energy sector, the physical mechanisms that control its efficiency and environmental impacts remain poorly understood in part because the length scales involved range from nanometres to kilometres. We characterize flow and transport in shale formations across and between these scales using integrated computational, theoretical and experimental efforts/methods. At the field scale, we use discrete fracture network modelling to simulate production of a hydraulically fractured well from a fracture network that is based on the site characterization of a shale gas reservoir. At the core scale, we use triaxial fracture experiments and a finite-discrete element model to study dynamic fracture/crack propagation in low permeability shale. We use lattice Boltzmann pore-scale simulations and microfluidic experiments in both synthetic and shale rock micromodels to study pore-scale flow and transport phenomena, including multi-phase flow and fluids mixing. A mechanistic description and integration of these multiple scales is required for accurate predictions of production and the eventual optimization of hydrocarbon extraction from unconventional reservoirs. Finally, we discuss the potential of CO2 as an alternative working fluid, both in fracturing and re-stimulating activities, beyond its environmental advantages.
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 April 28, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.