• The role of rock joint frictional strength in the containment of fracture propagation

      Eshiet, KII; Sheng, Y (Springer Nature, 2016-12-31)
      © 2016, The Author(s). The fracturing phenomenon within the reservoir environment is a complex process that is controlled by several factors and may occur either naturally or by artificial drivers. Even when deliberately induced, the fracturing behaviour is greatly influenced by the subsurface architecture and existing features. The presence of discontinuities such as joints, artificial and naturally occurring faults and interfaces between rock layers and microfractures plays an important role in the fracturing process and has been known to significantly alter the course of fracture growth. In this paper, an important property (joint friction) that governs the shear behaviour of discontinuities is considered. The applied numerical procedure entails the implementation of the discrete element method to enable a more dynamic monitoring of the fracturing process, where the joint frictional property is considered in isolation. Whereas fracture propagation is constrained by joints of low frictional resistance, in non-frictional joints, the unrestricted sliding of the joint plane increases the tendency for reinitiation and proliferation of fractures at other locations. The ability of a frictional joint to suppress fracture growth decreases as the frictional resistance increases; however, this phenomenon exacerbates the influence of other factors including in situ stresses and overburden conditions. The effect of the joint frictional property is not limited to the strength of rock formations; it also impacts on fracturing processes, which could be particularly evident in jointed rock masses or formations with prominent faults and/or discontinuities.