Simultaneous multiple-fracture treatments in horizontal wellbores have become an essential technology for the economic development of shale gas reservoirs. During hydraulic fracturing, fracture initiation and propagation always induce additional stresses on the surrounding rock. When multiple fractures develop simultaneously, the development of some fractures is limited due to the stress-shadow effect. An in-depth understanding of the multiple-fracture propagation mechanism as reflected by fracture morphology and flow rate distribution can help to set reasonable operation parameters for improving the uniformity of multiple fractures and forming a complex fracture network according to the different in situ stress conditions in a reservoir to increase the shale gas recovery and reduce the cost. In this study, a two-dimensional (2D) fracture propagation model was developed based on the extended finite element method (XFEM). Then, the influences of various factors, including geological and operational factors, on the development of multiple fractures were studied. The results of numerical simulations showed that increasing the cluster spacing or injecting fracturing fluid with lower viscosity can help reduce the stress-shadow effect. In the case of smaller in situ stress differences, the deflection of the fractures was larger due to the stress-shadow effect. As the stress difference increased, the direction of the propagation of the fracture was gradually biased towards the direction of maximum horizontal stress. In addition, the injection rate had some effects on the fracture morphology and flow rate distribution. However, as the injection rate increased, the dominant fracture developed rapidly, and the fracture length significantly increased.

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