Abstract

Within mudrock reservoirs, brittle zones undergo failure during hydraulic stimulation, creating numerous artificial fractures which enable hydrocarbons to be liberated from the reservoir. Natural fractures in mudrock reduce the tensile strength of the host rock, creating planes of weaknesses that are hypothesized to be reactivated during hydraulic stimulation. Combined, brittleness and natural fractures contribute to creating more abundant and complex fracture networks during hydraulic stimulation. Research efforts toward quantifying rock brittleness have resulted in numerous mineral-/compositional-based indices, which are used during petrophysical analysis to predict zones most conducive to hydraulic stimulation. In contrast, investigations on the relationship between chemical composition and core-scale natural fractures are limited. For this study, we collected high-resolution energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (XRF) data, calibrated with a wave-dispersive XRF, from a Marcellus Shale core. Additionally, we characterized corescale natural fractures in terms of length, width, in-filling material or lack thereof, and orientation. Following the characterization, we transformed the natural fracture data into a continuous P10 (lineal fracture intensity) curve, expressed as the number of fractures per a one-half foot window. Using these data sets, we investigated the relationship between rock composition and natural fracture intensity. Regression analyses recorded positive relationships between natural fracture intensity and calcium, silicon/aluminum, and total organic carbon (TOC), and negative relationships with silicon and aluminum. Aluminum recorded the strongest (negative) relationship (r2=0.379) with natural fracture intensity. To access the degree to which natural fractures can be predicted based on chemical composition, we applied a partial least-squares analysis, a multivariate method, and recorded an r2=0.56. Our study illustrates that although numerous factors are responsible for natural fracture genesis, such fractures predictively concentrate in areas of similar chemical composition, largely in zones with low aluminum concentrations.

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