Opening-mode fracture systems: insights from recent fluid inclusion microthermometry studies of crack-seal fracture cements
JOSEPH M. ENGLISH, STEPHEN E. LAUBACH, 2017. "Opening-mode fracture systems: insights from recent fluid inclusion microthermometry studies of crack-seal fracture cements", Geomechanics and Geology, C.J. TURNER, D. HEALY, R. R. HILLIS, M. J. WELCH
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Overpressuring, tectonic stretching and thermoelastic contraction are all processes that can drive the formation of opening-mode fractures in the subsurface. Recent studies on crack-seal quartz deposits in opening-mode fractures have yielded fluid inclusion microthermometric data, which for the first time allow us to constrain the pressure–temperature conditions under which these fractures formed. Here, we utilize the results from studies in the Lower Cretaceous Travis Peak Formation in the East Texas Basin and the Upper Cretaceous Mesaverde Group in the Piceance Basin to construct stress history models based on mechanical properties, burial history and tectonic setting to evaluate the various driving mechanisms for opening-mode fracture formation. Our results show progress towards separating and independently evaluating these mechanisms. Although high fluid pressure and tectonic stretching can play a major part in the formation of opening-mode fractures, our results suggest that the persistence of fracture growth during uplift could have been strongly influenced by thermoelastic contraction associated with exhumation and cooling. For sandstone reservoirs, thermoelastic contraction will be more pronounced for stiffer, high Young’s modulus rocks with higher quartz contents. These models can therefore be used to provide additional insights into the distribution of opening-mode fractures in exhumed basins.