Stress intensity factor determination plays a central role in linearly elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM) problems. Fracture propagation is controlled by the stress field near the crack tip. Because this stress field is asymptotic dominant or singular, it is characterized by the stress intensity factor (SIF). Since many rock types show brittle elastic behaviour under hydrocarbon reservoir conditions, LEFM can be satisfactorily used for studying hydraulic fracture development. The purpose of this paper is to describe a numerical method to evaluate the stress intensity factor in Mode I, II and III at the tip of an arbitrarily-shaped, embedded cracks. The stress intensity factor is evaluated directly based on displacement discontinuities (DD) using a three-dimensional displacement discontinuity, boundary element method based on the equations of proposed in . The boundary element formulation incorporates the fundamental closed-form analytical solution to a rectangular discontinuity in a homogenous, isotropic and linearly elastic half space. The accuracy of the stress intensity factor calculation is satisfactorily examined for rectangular, penny-shaped and elliptical planar cracks. Accurate and fast evaluation of the stress intensity factor for planar cracks shows the proposed procedure is robust for SIF calculation and crack propagation purposes. The empirical constant proposed by  relating crack tip element displacement discontinuity and SIF values provides surprisingly accurate results for planar cracks with limited numbers of constant DD elements. Using the described numerical model, we study how fracturing from misaligned horizontal wellbores might results in non-uniform height growth of the hydraulic fracture by evaluating of SIF distribution along the upper front of the fracture.
Part of the book: Effective and Sustainable Hydraulic Fracturing