Traditional amplitude variation with offset and azimuth (AVOAz) analysis for fracture characterization extracts fracture properties through analysis of reflection AVOAz to determine anisotropic parameters (e.g., Thomsen’s parameters) that are then related to fracture properties. The validity of this method relies on the basic assumption that a fractured unit can be viewed as an equivalent anisotropic medium. As a rule of thumb, this assumption is taken to be valid when the fracture spacing is less than λ/10. Under the effective medium assumption, diffractions from individual fractures destructively interfere and only specular reflections from boundaries of a fractured layer can be observed in seismic data. The effective medium theory has been widely used in fracture characterization, and its applicability has been validated through many field applications. However, through numerical simulations, we find that diffractions from fracture clusters can significantly distort the AVOAz signatures when a fracture system has irregular spacing even though the average fracture spacing is much smaller than a wavelength (e.g., λ/10). Contamination by diffractions from irregularly spaced fractures on reflections can substantially bias the fracture properties estimated from AVOAz analysis and may possibly lead to incorrect estimates of fracture properties. Additionally, through Monte Carlo simulations, we find that fracture spacing uncertainty inverted from amplitude variation with offset (AVO) analysis can be up to 10%–20% when fractures are not uniformly distributed, which should be the realistic state of fractures present in the earth. Also, AVOAz and AVO analysis gives more reliable estimates of fracture properties when reflections at the top of the fractured layer are used compared with those from the bottom of the layer.

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