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The Monterey Formation of Central and Southern California has produced billions of barrels of oil since the early 1900s. The Monterey Formation in the Santa Maria Basin is a tectonically fractured reservoir, meaning that the fractures formed through natural geologic processes; they are not human-generated artifacts. Open natural fractures provide the effective porosity for oil storage and the permeability pathways through which oil flows from rocks to wells. Monterey strata are notable for a diverse range of lithologies characterized by contrasts in texture and composition. Not all Monterey rock types contain natural fractures.

Structural geologists applied the concepts of mechanical stratigraphy to the Monterey Formation to explain fracture variability. Hard rocks, including chert, porcelanite, and dolostone, contain extensive open-fracture systems, while softer lithologies like siliceous mudstone and organic-rich mudstone have few or no open fractures. However, the words “hard and soft” or “strong and weak” are inexact and subject to interpretation. This report constrains these qualitative descriptions by using engineering-geology data to associate rock properties with quantitative measurements of rock mechanical strength.

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