The role of texture, cracks, and fractures in highly anisotropic shales

Alan Baird, J M Kendall, Quentin J. Fisher, Jessica Budge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
286 Downloads (Pure)


Organic shales generally have low permeability unless fractures are present. However, how gas, oil, and water flows into these fractures remains enigmatic. The alignment of clay minerals and the alignment of fractures and cracks are effective means to produce seismic anisotropy. Thus, the detection and characterization of this anisotropy can be used to infer details about lithology, rock fabric, and fracture and crack properties within the subsurface. We present a study characterizing anisotropy using S wave splitting from microseismic sources in a highly anisotropic shale. We observe very strong anisotropy (up to 30%) with predominantly VTI (vertical transverse isotropy) symmetry, but with evidence of an HTI (horizontal transverse isotropy) overprint due to a NE striking vertical fracture set parallel to the maximum horizontal compressive stress. We observe clear evidence of a shear wave triplication due to anisotropy, which to our knowledge is one of only a very few observations of such triplications in field-scale data. We use modal proportions of minerals derived from X-ray fluorescence data combined with realistic textures to estimate the contribution of intrinsic anisotropy as well as possible contributions of horizontally aligned cracks. We find that aligned clays can explain much of the observed anisotropy and that any cracks contributing to the vertical transverse isotropy (VTI) must have a low ratio of normal to tangential compliance (ZN/ZT), typical of isolated cracks with low hydraulic connectivity. Subhorizontal cracks have also been observed in the reservoir, and we propose that their reactivation during hydraulic fracturing may be an important mechanism to facilitate gas flow.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10341–10351
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number12
Early online date26 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2018


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