Adaptive multiscale extended finite element method (MS-XFEM) for the simulation of multiple fractures propagation in geological formations

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In fractured geological formations, as a result of the in-situ stress changes, fractures can propagate or slide. This phenomenon can be efficiently modeled by the extended finite element method (XFEM) when there are only a few fractures present. However, geological reservoirs contain many fractures which can also cross and are densely populated. Therefore, the classical XFEM is too expensive to be applied for the simulation of propagating fractures in geological formations. To reduce the costs, typically, homogenization or upscaling is used. However, they result in inaccurate solutions, since no separation of scales exists in this process. To resolve this challenge, in this work, a multiscale XFEM (MS-XFEM) for propagating fractures is developed and presented. In each time step, given the current geometries of the fractures, local XFEM-based basis functions are constructed or adaptively updated. The adaptive update takes place in certain regions where fracture geometries are changed due to propagation. Using these basis functions, a very efficient FEM-based coarse-scale system is developed since it has no extra degrees of freedom (DOFs). Once the coarse-scale system is solved, its solution is prolonged to the fine-scale original resolution using the basis functions. This approximate fine-scale solution is then used to estimate the group of growing fractures tips and their growing angles. This allows for exploiting the locality of the propagation process fully while solving a global system. To control the error, an iterative procedure is also developed. Proof-of-concept test cases are presented to study the developed MS-XFEM algorithm. It is shown that MS-XFEM results are capable of predicting the propagating paths for complicated fracture patterns. As such, MS-XFEM casts a promising method for field-scale applications.