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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

Print version ISSN 0038-223X

Abstract

HUANG, B.X et al. Hydraulic fracturing technology for improving permeability in gas-bearing coal seams in underground coal mines. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2012, vol.112, n.6, pp. 485-495. ISSN 0038-223X.

Hydraulic fracturing technology is presented as a solution to improve permeability and thus solve the extraction problem of coal seam gas in low-permeability gas-bearing coal seams. Given an existing group of original cracks, the propagation of main hydraulic cracks and hydraulic wing cracks was simulated using realistic failure process analysis software. The process represents the structural transformation of hydraulic fracturing and permeability improvements caused by it. In addition, a field test for improving the permeability of gassy coal seams by hydraulic fracturing was also conducted. The propagation of the main cracks and wing cracks by hydraulic fracturing forms a network of original joint cracks, hydraulic wing cracks, and main hydraulic cracks, which improve the permeability of the coal seam. High-pressure water in the drill hole and in the main hydraulic cracks permeates the two flanks of the hole, forming the permeating water pressure. With an increase in drill water pressure and an extension of the main hydraulic cracks, the permeating water pressure on both sides of the main hydraulic cracks in the coal mass also increases. Hydraulic cracks tend to form connections through rock bridges. The extension of hydraulic wing cracks through connections in the rock bridges between the cracks transforms the rock mass to a fractured structure and improves its permeability. Hydraulic fracturing technology for improving permeability in underground conditions can increase the amount of gas drainage by a factor of 15. A stress relief area develops at a radial distance of 10-20 m from the hydraulic fracturing drill hole, while an area of rising stresses, called the pressurized area, develops a further 15 m away from the pressurized hole. Practice has proved the existence of the stress transfer phenomenon and the high stress area after fracturing. This kind of hydraulic fracturing technology is more effective in holes drilled from underground than in surface drill holes, with respect to costs and controllability, and is therefore the major trend in gas drainage development in coal mines.

Keywords : coal seam; gas; hydraulic fracturing; crack propagation; improving permeability.

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