fracture | Energy Glossary

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1. n. []

A crack or surface of breakage within rock not related to foliation or cleavage in metamorphic rock along which there has been no movement. A fracture along which there has been displacement is a fault. When walls of a fracture have moved only normal to each other, the fracture is called a joint. Fractures can enhance permeability of rocks greatly by connecting pores together, and for that reason, fractures are induced mechanically in some reservoirs in order to boost hydrocarbon flow. Fractures may also be referred to as natural fractures to distinguish them from fractures induced as part of a reservoir stimulation or drilling operation. In some shale reservoirs, natural fractures improve production by enhancing effective permeability. In other cases, natural fractures can complicate reservoir stimulation.

See: competentdilatancyen echelonfracture gradienthaliteincompetentpermeabilityporeS-wavestrainstructure

Photograph of fractures in Jebel Hafit (UAE)

2. vb. []

To perform a stimulation treatment, which is routine for oil and gas wells in low-permeability reservoirs. Specially engineered fluids are pumped at high pressure and rate into the reservoir interval to be treated, causing a vertical fracture to open. The wings of the fracture extend away from the wellbore in opposing directions according to the natural stresses within the formationProppant, such as grains of sand of a particular size, is mixed with the treatment fluid to keep the fracture open when the treatment is complete. Hydraulic fracturing creates high-conductivity communication with a large area of formation and bypasses any damage that may exist in the near-wellbore area.

See: hydraulic fracturingtreatment fluid