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Fracture Pressure

M.V.V.S Anuprakash

Table of Content

Formation integrity tests

Fracture gradient determination
Theory of wellbore
FIT procedural Guidelines
Predicting fracture gradient
Casing seat selection method.

Formation integrity tests

It is my aim that the methods

presented in this chapter can be used
directly in well designs and field
operations with little modifications.
Although, there is a great deal of
maths required to explain some of the
ideas presented here, the chapter
gives the minimum amount of
mathematical derivations to keep the
book practical.

Formation integrity tests

The term Formation Integrity is one of the most
widely misused term in the oil industry. It is
usually used to indicate a test to determine the
fracture gradient. In reality, the term
Formation Integrity Test has a more encompassing
meaning which includes:
Limit Test: A test carried out to a specified value,
always below the fracture gradient of the
Leak off Test: A test carried out to the point
where the formation leaks off.

Formation integrity tests

Fracture Gradient Test: A test carried out to the leak off point and
beyond until the formation around the wellbore fails.
The fracture gradient is equal to the earth minimum horizontal stress.
Another widely used term is the Shoe Bond Test which is carried out to test
the strength of the cement at the casing shoe.
There is no theoretical basis to this test other than deciding on a cement
strength value and carrying out a test to this value.
The reader should note that the cement strength increases with time until
a certain peak value is attained, which under downhole conditions is
difficult to ascertain.
This Chapter will be mainly concerned with Fracture Gradient
determination as the other tests become merely derivatives if this test is
carried out completely.
For example, if a leak off tests is carried out to full formation fracture then
this test gives three values: leak off value, formation breakdown strength
and fracture gradient value, Figure 2.3.
We will use the term Formation Integrity Test (FIT) to describe the test
irrespective of what value is eventually determined.


Formation strength tests can be carried out to the leak-off pressure
or to a pre-determined limit as specified in the drilling programme.
The main reasons for performing a formation integrity test (FIT) are:
(a) To investigate the strength of the cement bond around the
casing shoe and to ensure that no communication is established
with higher formations.
(b) To determine the fracture gradient around the casing shoe and
therefore establish the upper limit of primary well control for the
open hole section below the current casing.
(c) To investigate well bore capability to withstand pressure below
the casing shoe in order to validate or invalidate the well
engineering plan regarding the next casing shoe setting depth.
(d) To collect regional information on the formation strength for
optimisation of well design for future wells.

Fracture Gradient Determination

In oil well drilling, the fracture gradient may be defined as the minimum horizontal in- situ stress divided
by the depth.
The accurate prediction of fracture gradient is essential to optimising well design.
At the well planning stage, the fracture gradient can be estimated from the offset well data.
If no offset well data is available then the fracture gradient can be predicted using any of several
published models 2-5.
The most widely used predictive method is the Hubbert and Willis method as outlined in Predicting
Fracture Gradient on page 59.
As the well is drilled, Formation Integrity Tests (FIT) are carried out to determine the approximate value of
fracture gradient beneath each casing shoe.
The FIT pressure is converted to an EMW to determine the upper limit of primary well control for the next
FIT limit tests are not designed to break the formation but merely to reach a value below the minimum
horizontal stress.
The value of the minimum horizontal stress is the Fracture Gradient at the point the test is carried out.
FITs are typically carried out once in each open hole section after drilling out the casing shoe.
The test should be repeated when weaker zones are drilled into as this lower fracture gradient may have
a vital impact on well design and primary well control.
However, it is not always possible, practical or desirable to repeat FITs at every formation change. In this
case predictive methods should be used to asses formation strength, see Predicting Fracture
Gradient on page 59


In most oilwell applications, the rock under consideration is subjected to
in-situ stresses with
have no shear stresses. Normal stresses which have no associated shear
stresses are described
as Principal Stresses and are mutually perpendicular to each other,
Figure 2.1b:
The maximum principal stress (designated 1)
The intermediate principal stress (designated 2)
The minimum principal stress (designated 3)
In most cases the maximum principal stress will be vertical due to the
pressure of the overlying rock. This is defined as the overburden
In a tectonically stable basin, the maximum principal stress will be
vertical and the horizontal stresses will be equal.
In any area undergoing tectonic activity the horizontal stresses are
distorted creating an intermediate and a minimum principal stress.


In areas of high tectonic activities such as mountain belts, the
maximum principal stress may be horizontal and the minimum
principal stress is vertical.
Figure 2.2 shows the typical states of stress underground
characterised by differing tectonic stresses.
In N-W Europe 6, the state of stress is influenced by the
movement of North Africa towards the N-W resulting in high
stresses in the N-W direction and in the upward growth of the Alps.
The three stresses are: vertical stress (overburden, V) is the
maximum stress and the intermediate horizontal stress is in the NW direction and the minimum horizontal stress (h) is normal to
In tectonically active areas such as Columbia the state of stress at
depth is as follows:

Theory of wellbore

FIT procedural Guidelines

Predicting fracture gradient

Casing seat selection