Understanding and interpreting the timing, location, orientation, and intensity of natural fractures within a geologic structure are commonly important to both exploration and production planning activities. Here we explore the application of finite-element-based geomechanical models to fracture prediction. Our approach is based on the idea that natural fractures can be interpreted or inferred from the geomechanical-model-derived permanent strains. For this analysis, we model an extensional fault-tip monocline developed in a mechanically stratified limestone and shale sequence because field data exist that can be directly compared with model results. The approach and our conclusions, however, are independent of the specific structural geometry. The presence or absence of interlayer slip is shown to strongly control the distribution and evolution of strain, and this control has important implications for interpreting fractures from geomechanical models.

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