Finite Element study of fracture initiation in flaws subject to internal fluid pressure and vertical stress

Bruno Gonҫalves Da Silva, Herbert H. Einstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Hydraulic fracturing is a method used routinely in oil and gas exploitation and in engineered geothermal systems. While used frequently, there are many aspects of hydraulic fracturing, such as the direction of propagation of the newly-created fractures, which are not very well understood. Even though it is known that the local stress field plays a fundamental role in the orientation of the new fractures, there may be other factors, such as the geometry of the existing fractures and the magnitude of the hydraulic pressure applied, that may play a major role in the path that a new fracture follows when pressurized. The main goal of this study is to numerically analyze the effect of the ratio between a vertical load, or stress, and the hydraulic pressure applied in existing flaws on the stress field in the vicinity of the flaw tips. For that purpose, a double flaw geometry 2a-30-30 was modeled in the Finite Element code ABAQUS, and different vertical loads and internal flaw pressures were applied to the model. The variation of the maximum principal stresses and maximum shear stresses around the flaw tips were analyzed and related to fracture initiation. The study showed that the ratio between the water pressure applied in the flaws and the vertical load/stress (WP/VL) plays a crucial role in the magnitude and shape of the stress field around a flaw tip, and therefore in the location of tensile and shear fracture initiation. As WP/VL increases, the location of initiation of new tensile fractures shifts from the upper face of the studied flaw towards the region right ahead of the flaw tip; simultaneously, the location of initiation of new shear fractures shifts from the region ahead of the flaw tip to the upper face of the analyzed tip.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4122-4136
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Solids and Structures
Issue number23-24
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics


  • Finite element method
  • Flaw tip
  • Fracture initiation
  • Fracture mechanics
  • Hydraulic fracturing
  • Rock fracturing


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