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Enhancing Fracture Network Characterization: A Data-Driven, Outcrop-Based Analysis
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  • Weiwei Zhu,
  • Xupeng He,
  • ‪Ryan Kurniawan Santoso‬,
  • Gang Lei,
  • Tad Patzek,
  • Moran Wang
Weiwei Zhu
Tsinghua University
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Xupeng He
King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST)
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‪Ryan Kurniawan Santoso‬
RWTH Aachen University
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Gang Lei
King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals
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Tad Patzek
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Moran Wang
Tsinghua University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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The stochastic discrete fracture network (SDFN) model is a practical approach to model complex fracture systems in the subsurface. However, it is impossible to validate the correctness and quality of an SDFN model because the comprehensive subsurface structure is never known. We utilize a pixel-based fracture detection algorithm to digitize 80 published outcrop maps of different scales at different locations. The key fracture properties, including fracture lengths, orientations, intensities, topological structures, clusters and flow are then analyzed. Our findings provide significant justifications for statistical distributions used in SDFN modellings. In addition, the shortcomings of current SDFN models are discussed. We find that fracture lengths follow multiple (instead of single) power-law distributions with varying exponents. Large fractures tend to have large exponents, possibly because of a small coalescence probability. Most small-scale natural fracture networks have scattered orientations, corresponding to a small κ value (κ<3) in a von Mises–Fisher distribution. Large fracture systems collected in this research usually have more concentrated orientations with large κ values. Fracture intensities are spatially clustered at all scales. A fractal spatial density distribution, which introduces clustered fracture positions, can better capture the spatial clustering than a uniform distribution. Natural fracture networks usually have a significant proportion of T-type nodes, which is unavailable in conventional SDFN models. Thus a rule-based algorithm to mimic the fracture growth and form T-type nodes is necessary. Most outcrop maps show good topological connectivity. However, sealing patterns and stress impact must be considered to evaluate the hydraulic connectivity of fracture networks.