Stress inhomogeneity effect on fluid-induced fracture behavior into weakly consolidated granular systems.
We study the effect of stress inhomogeneity on the behavior of fluid-driven fracture development in weakly consolidated granular systems. Using numerical models we investigate the change in fracture growth rate and fracture pattern structure in unconsolidated granular packs (also referred to as soft-sands) as a function of the change in the confining stresses applied to the system. Soft-sands do not usually behave like brittle, linear elastic materials, and as a consequence, poroelastic models are often not applicable to describe their behavior. By making a distinction between "cohesive" and "compressive" grain-grain contact forces depending on their magnitude, we propose an expression that describes the fluid opening pressure as a function of the mean value and the standard deviation of the "compressive stress" distribution. We also show that the standard deviation of this distribution can be related with the extent to which fracture "branches" reach into the material.