To accurately assess rock behavior in the deep subsurface, it is necessary to measure the in situ stress directions and magnitudes. The current methods for measuring the in situ stress state in the deep subsurface primarily include hydraulic fracturing tests (i.e., the minimum horizontal stress) or occasionally observing existing compressive borehole breakouts (i.e., the maximum horizontal stress) that have occurred naturally from drilling. If there are no existing compressive breakouts in a borehole, the maximum horizontal in situ stress cannot be estimated with much confidence. In response to this data gap, a new thermal breakout technology is being developed that will provide a method for thermally inducing borehole breakouts and obtaining consistent measurements of the maximum horizontal stress magnitude. This thermal breakout technology involves heating the borehole and increasing the thermoelastic compressive stress in the rock until a breakout develops, which is directly correlated to the maximum horizontal stress magnitude.
In support of developing the thermal breakout technology, polyaxial laboratory tests have been performed on small-scale boreholes within rock blocks where mechanically- and thermally-induced borehole breakouts have been created. Numerical models along with the principal of superposition were created and used to analyze the polyaxial laboratory tests to predict the maximum horizontal stress, given the same data that would be obtained in an actual subsurface borehole thermal breakout test. Multiple failure criteria were used to evaluate the best prediction of the breakout onset and maximum horizontal stress. The maximum horizontal stress predictions were compared to the actual maximum horizontal stress applied at breakout using acoustic events recorded from emission sensors in the polyaxial tests. The results showed consistent results that could be used to refine the modeling approach and failure criterion that are used to make the maximum horizontal stress predictions. This study provided insight and validation for the thermal breakout stress measurement concept.