Characterization of naturally fractured reservoirs often requires estimating parameters of multiple fracture sets that develop in an anisotropic background. Here, we discuss modeling and inversion of the effective parameters of orthorhombic models formed by two orthogonal vertical fracture sets embedded in a VTI (transversely isotropic with a vertical symmetry axis) background matrix.

Although the number of the microstructural (physical) medium parameters is equal to the number of effective stiffness elements (nine), we show that for this model there is an additional relation (constraint) between the stiffnesses or Tsvankin's anisotropic coefficients. As a result, the same effective orthorhombic medium can be produced by a wide range of equivalent models with vastly different fracture weaknesses and background VTI parameters, and the inversion of seismic data for the microstructural parameters is nonunique without additional information. Reflection moveout of PP- and PS-waves can still be used to find the fracture orientation and estimate (in combination with the vertical velocities) the differences between the normal and shear weaknesses of the fracture sets, as well as the background anellipticity parameter ηb. Since for penny-shaped cracks the shear weakness is close to twice the crack density, seismic data can help to identify the dominant fracture set, although the crack densities cannot be resolved individually.

If the VTI symmetry of the background is caused by intrinsic anisotropy (as is usually the case for shales), it may be possible to determine at least one background anisotropic coefficient from borehole or core measurements. Then seismic data can be inverted for the fracture weaknesses and the rest of the background parameters. Therefore, seismic characterization of reservoirs with multiple fracture sets and anisotropic background is expected to give ambiguous results, unless the input data include measurements made on different scales (surface seismic, borehole, cores).

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