Geomechanical simulation to predict open subsurface fractures

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    Abstract

    Geomechanical simulation of the evolution of a geological structure can play an important role in predicting open fracture development for all stages in that structure's development. In this work, three such geomechanical simulations are used to predict the evolving stress and strain fields, including dilational and compactional changes in the rock fabric in developing fault and fold systems. Their consequences for open fracture development and flow are addressed. These simulated stress and strain fields show considerable spatial and temporal heterogeneity that is consistent with deformation patterns observed in both natural examples and in laboratory-deformed analogues. But the stress and strain states that develop are neither co-axial nor do they bear a simple relationship to one another. The dilational and compactional strains, manifest as open fracturing or sealing, represent some significantly increased or significantly decreased flow rates. However, open-fracture predictions based on such geomechanical simulations are extremely difficult to validate with any degree of confidence as there is little direct evidence of sub-surface fracture distributions. In this context we also discuss possible integration of seismic anisotropy measurements, as an independent measure of open fracture alignment, to support the geomechanically derived fracture predictions. The focus of this work is on volumetric strains in fault zone evolution, though folding is also addressed. © 2009 European Association of Geoscientists & Engineers.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)285-299
    Number of pages15
    JournalGeophysical Prospecting
    Volume57
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

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