Research topic: "Numerical Simulation and Optimization of Proppant Transport and Placement in Complex Fractures"
Co-advisor: Dr. H. Li
Hydraulic fracturing creates rough fracture surfaces, instead of smooth ones, in subsurface formations. It is challenging to simulate the complex proppant transport phenomena in rough fractures due to the roughness effect as well as the nature of the coupled particle-fluid two-phase flow. This study first establishes realistic rough fracture models using digital scanning images of real fracture surfaces, and then conducts comprehensive simulations on the proppant transport and placement dynamics occurring on those rough surfaces.
The Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) method is adopted to describe the fluid flow, while the Discrete Element Method (DEM) is adopted to describe the particle motion. A novel CFD-DEM coupling approach is established to simulate the fluid-granular interactions by properly setting the coupling parameters between fluid flow and particle movement. Such numerical simulations will be leveraged to subsequently optimize the operational hydraulic fracturing parameters, enabling us to achieve a higher process efficiency with enhanced cost-effectiveness.