Measuring hydraulic fracture apertures: a comparison of methods

Cheng, Chaojie; Hale, Sina; Milsch, Harald; Blum, Philipp

Hydraulic fracture apertures predominantly control fluid transport in fractured rock masses. Hence, the objective of the current study is to investigate and compare three different laboratory-scale methods to determine hydraulic apertures in fractured (Fontainebleau and Flechtinger) sandstone samples with negligible matrix permeability. Direct measurements were performed by using a flow-through apparatus and a transient-airflow permeameter. In addition, a microscope camera permitted measuring the mechanical fracture apertures from which the corresponding hydraulic apertures were indirectly derived by applying various empirical correlations. Single fractures in the sample cores were generated artificially either by axial splitting or by a saw cut resulting in hydraulic apertures that ranged between 8 and 66 inline-formulaµm. Hydraulic apertures, accurately determined by the flow-through apparatus, are used to compare results obtained by the other methods. The transient-airflow permeameter delivers accurate values, particularly when repeated measurements along the full fracture width are performed. In this case, the derived mean hydraulic fracture apertures are in excellent quantitative agreement. When hydraulic apertures are calculated indirectly from optically determined mechanical apertures using empirical equations, they show larger variations that are difficult to compare with the flow-through-derived results. Variations in hydraulic apertures as observed between methods are almost certainly related to differences in sampled fracture volume. Overall, using direct flow-through measurements as a reference, this study demonstrates the applicability of portable methods to determine hydraulic fracture apertures at both the laboratory and outcrop scales.

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Cheng, Chaojie / Hale, Sina / Milsch, Harald / et al: Measuring hydraulic fracture apertures: a comparison of methods. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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