Wellbore stability in layered rocks: A comparative study of strength criteria

Xiangchao Shi, Xiao Zhuo, Yue Xiao, Boyun Guo, Cheng Zhu, Jiaxue Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Wellbore instability is a critical issue restricting efficient well drilling and successful development of oil and gas field. Most instability problems originate from shale formations because of their distinct laminated structures that cause significant anisotropy and moderate to high clay contents that are prone to shrinkage and swelling. To account for these influences on the mechanical responses of shales, this study aims to identify an appropriate strength criterion for stability analyses. Two anisotropic criteria including single plane of weakness and the modified Hoek-Brown criteria were compared to evaluate their suitability in characterizing the anisotropic strength of layered rocks including shale, schist, and slate under different confining pressures. Comparative case studies indicated that the single plane of weakness criterion overestimates the strength of layered rocks at some orientation angles. The modified Hoek-Brown criterion can fit well with the experimental data of layered rocks. Moreover, wellbore stability analysis models for shale gas wells were built, respectively, for each criterion and applied to in situ scenarios. The single plane of weakness and modified Hoek-Brown criteria provide similar results of collapse pressure, and the shale failure is mainly determined by the bedding plane. This further validates that the modified Hoek-Brown criterion is a good choice for wellbore stability analysis in shale formations with bedding planes. This study shows the potential of using the modified Hoek-Brown criterion to enhance the safety and efficiency of well drilling and operation in shale formations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number063003
JournalJournal of Energy Resources Technology, Transactions of the ASME
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


Dive into the research topics of 'Wellbore stability in layered rocks: A comparative study of strength criteria'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this