New paper: Liquid CO2 fracturing: Effect of fluid permeation on the breakdown pressure and cracking behavior

Our paper on liquid CO2 fracturing, in collaboration with Prof. Tae Sup Yun at Yonsei University, has been accepted for publication in Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering.

Read the paper: Ha et al., RMRE 2018. 

Abstract: Liquid CO2 fracturing is a promising alternative to hydraulic fracturing since it can circumvent problems stemming from the use of water. One of the most significant differences between liquid CO2 and hydraulic fracturing processes is that liquid CO2 permeates into matrix pores very rapidly due to its low viscosity. Here we study how this rapid permeation of liquid CO2 impacts a range of features during the course of the fracturing process, with a focus on the breakdown pressure and cracking behavior. We first conduct a series of laboratory fracturing experiments that inject liquid CO2, water, and oil into nominally identical mortar specimens with various pressurization rates. We quantitatively measure the volumes of fluids permeated into the specimens and investigate how these permeated volumes are related to breakdown and fracture initiation pressures and pressurization efficiency. The morphology of the fractures generated by different types of fluids are also examined using 3D X-ray computed tomographic imaging. Subsequently, the cracking processes due to injection of liquid CO2 and water are further investigated by numerical simulations employing a phase-field approach to fracture in porous media. Simulation results show that rapid permeation of liquid CO2 gives rise to a substantial pore pressure buildup and distributed microcracks prior to the major fracture propagation stage. The experimental and numerical results commonly indicate that significant fluid permeation during liquid CO2 fracturing is a primary reason for its lower breakdown pressure and more distributed fractures compared with hydraulic fracturing.

Simulation of liquid CO2 fracturing in a heterogeneous brittle porous material. The red zone denotes fully cracked regions, whereas the blue zone denotes intact regions. The green zone denotes microcracked regions. The video shows that the injection of liquid CO2 — which involves a huge amount of fluid permeation into the matrix — gives rise to a lot of microcracks prior to fracture propagation.

Simulation of hydraulic (water) fracturing in the same porous material. The video shows that when the same material is fractured by the injection of water, virtually no microcrack develops in the matrix before and during the fracture propagation stage. As a result, this process manifests a higher breakdown pressure, as observed from experiments of our collaborator and others.