Breakdown Pressure and Propagation Surface of a Hydraulically Pressurized Circular Notch Within a Rock Material

Adam Schwartzkopff, Noune Melkoumian, Chaoshui Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Rock masses contain pre-existing cracks. These cracks are not usually considered when predicting the maximum injection pressure, i.e. the breakdown pressure, in hydraulic fracture stimulations. The conventional approach to predict breakdown pressure is to use the maximum tensile stress failure criterion to calculate the pressure when a point on the borehole wall reaches the tensile strength of the rock. In addition, a pre-existing crack intersecting a hydraulically pressurized section of a borehole may produce a non-planar crack propagation surface. It is important to predict these non-planar crack propagation surfaces to design productive hydraulic fracturing stimulations and to mitigate risks associated with uncertainties of the resultant crack propagation. To gain a better understanding of this problem, a series of hydraulic fracturing experiments were conducted to investigate the breakdown pressures and crack propagation surfaces of a pressurized circular crack represented by a thin notch, subjected to different external triaxial stresses. The results show that the breakdown pressures under the shear stress conditions studied can be estimated using only the resultant normal stress on the plane of the crack. As the material properties of the experimental specimens are well defined and the crack propagation surfaces were mapped, the experimental results presented in this study provide a very useful measured dataset for the validation of various modelling approaches. The propagation surfaces from experiments were found to align closely to the computational predictions based on the maximum tangential stress criterion. Finally, this study gives evidence in three-dimensions that via the hydraulic fracturing process, the propagation of an initially arbitrarily oriented crack will eventually realign to be perpendicular to the minor principal stress direction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-218
Number of pages28
JournalRock Mechanics and Rock Engineering
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


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