Natural fractures are pervasive in southern Sichuan Basin marine shales, China, and provide a useful opportunity to try to understand subsurface fracture networks in shale reservoirs. Based on cores and electrical imaging logs from vertical and horizontal petroleum wells in the southern Sichuan Basin, four types of natural fractures were identified in terms of orientation, size, filling properties and spatial distribution. Uncemented bed-parallel shear fractures develop at or in the vicinity of mechanical interfaces and are inclined to present in shale layers with a dip angle greater than 12°. Cemented bed-parallel fractures are characterized by a crack-seal texture marked by multiple bands of fibrous cement, and their intensity decreases upwards and shows a positive relationship with total organic carbon (TOC) values. Uncemented bed-oblique fractures are a type of fracture that rarely develops, and accommodate limited open space. Cemented bed-oblique/perpendicular fractures are the most developed fracture type and are distributed on a regional scale and are subdivided into two types. The results imply that these shale fractures could be formed sequentially by local and regional tectonic deformation, and by abnormally high pressure. Most natural fractures cannot contribute to reservoir storage or efficiently enhance its permeability, yet can act as planes of weakness and be potentially reactivated during hydraulic fracture treatments.

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