The influence of the cohesive process zone in hydraulic fracturing modelling

E. Sarris, P. Papanastasiou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper studies the importance of the cohesive zone in the modelling of a fluid driven fracture under plain strain conditions. The fracture is driven by pumping of an incompressible viscous fluid at the fracture inlet. Rock deformation is modeled for linear elastic and poroelastic solids. Fluid flow in the fracture is modeled by lubrication theory. The cohesive zone approach is used as the fracture propagation criterion. Finite element analysis was used to compute the solution for the crack length, the fracture opening and propagation pressure as a function of the time and distance from the wellbore. It is demonstrated that the crack profiles and the propagation pressures are larger in the case of elastic-softening cohesive model compared to the results of the rigid-softening cohesive model for both elastic and poroelastic cohesive solids. It is found that the results are affected by the slope of the loading branch of the cohesive model and they are nearly unaffected from the exact form of the softening branch. Furthermore, the size of the process zone, the fracture geometry and the propagation pressure increase with increasing confining stresses. These results may explain partially the discrepancies in net-pressures between field measurements and conventional model predictions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-45
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Fracture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011


  • Cohesive zone
  • Finite Elements
  • Hydraulic fracturing
  • Net-Pressures
  • Poroelasticity


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