Pore pressure cohesive zone modeling of hydraulic fracture in quasi-brittle rocks

Yao Yao*, Lu Liu, Leon M. Keer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Hydraulic fracturing technology has been widely applied in the petroleum industry for both waste injection and unconventional gas production wells. The prevailing analytical solutions for hydraulic fracture mainly depend on linear elastic fracture mechanics. These methods can give reasonable prediction for hard rock, but are ineffective in predicting hydraulic fractures in quasi-brittle materials, such as ductile shale and sandstone. One of the reasons is that the fracture process zone ahead of the crack tip and the softening effect should not be neglected for quasi-brittle materials. In the current work, a set of chevron-notch three point bending tests were performed on sandstone samples from an oil field in Ordos Basin, Shaanxi province, China, and the results were compared with the cohesive zone method based on finite element analysis. The numerical results fit the experimental data well and it shows that the cohesive zone model and the Traction-Separation law used in the model are effective in modeling fracture nucleation and propagation in sandstone without considering the porous effect. A 3D pore pressure cohesive zone model was developed to predict nucleation and propagation of a penny-shaped fluid-driven fracture. The predictions were compared with the analytical asymptotic solutions and a field minifrac test from the literature; it shows that the proposed method can not only predict the length and aperture of hydraulic fracture well, but also predict the bottomhole pressure with reasonable accuracy. Based on analytical asymptotic and computational solutions, parametric studies were conducted to investigate the effects of different parameters on the fracture aperture and fracture length, fracture process zone and bottomhole pressure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-29
Number of pages13
JournalMechanics of Materials
StatePublished - Apr 2015


  • Analytical asymptotic solutions
  • Experiment
  • Finite element analysis
  • Hydraulic fracture
  • Pore pressure cohesive zone method

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Instrumentation
  • Mechanics of Materials


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