FEIT Research Project Database

Simulation-based engineering research of hydraulic fractures in naturally fractured rocks

Project Leader: Stephan Matthai
Primary Contact: Stephan Matthai (stephan.matthai@unimelb.edu.au)
Keywords: carbon capture and storage; geotechnical engineering
Disciplines: Infrastructure Engineering

Hydraulic fracturing occurs when elevated fluid pressure breaks pristine rock or reactivates partially sealed rock fractures, creating pathways for the fluid injected into the subsurface. The engineered hydraulic fracturing process has been successfully applied to unconventional oil and gas plays, geothermal systems, and for pre-conditioning the subsurface for underground mining. Rock volumes targeted by these applications, commonly already contain natural fractures which may affect the hydraulic fracturing process by terminating or offsetting growing hydraulic fractures (S. Matthai, 2011, https://doi.org/10.3997/2214-4609.20146767,  O. Kolawole et al., 2020, https://doi.org/10.1007/s13202-019-00778-3). Hydraulic fractures approaching critically stressed natural fractures (Saeed et al., 2019, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.engfracmech.2019.04.041) or faults may also trigger slippage that can manifest itself in earthquakes.

In this study, you will research and simulate these processes, building on our recent developments of numeric methods that simulate how a hydraulic fracture propagates and interacts with natural (pre-existing) fractures. In this project, the latter will be defined as frictional interfaces, and criteria for the approach of-, intersection with-, and crossing of hydraulic fractures will be studied. Numerical simulations will be performed using the Complex Systems Modelling Platform (CSMP++), a mature C++ code (S. Matthai at el., 2001, https://www.research-collection.ethz.ch/bitstream/handle/20.500.11850/146892/1/eth-25858-01.pdf) that becomes open source this year.


Through this research project you will become part of a joint effort between the geomechanics team at CSIRO and the Reservoir / Geotechnical Engineering group at Melbourne University. You will also have exposure to industry and the international community of students and researchers who develop CSMP++. As an important part of your PhD research and engineering, you will be expected to test, verify, validate and contribute your developments to the CSMP++ software libraries.

Successful applicants will be awarded a tax-free stipend ($31,200) and fee offset scholarship (closing date 31 October 2020). For information on scholarships and to apply visit here (https://scholarships.unimelb.edu.au/awards/graduate-research-scholarships).



To submit your interest to do a PhD on this project, please email your information;


• Resume with the details of any published papers

• Full academic transcripts



to Prof Stephan Matthai at stephan.matthai@unimelb.edu.au




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Figure 1