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Role of Mineralogy in Controlling Fracture Formation

by Olivia Brunhoeber, Lawrence M Anovitz, Parisa Asadi, Lauren E. Beckingham
Publication Type
Journal Name
ACS Earth and Space Chemistry
Publication Date
Page Numbers
3104 to 3114

The presence of fractures in caprocks can pose increased risks in subsurface energy systems and processes like CO2 sequestration by introducing high-permeability leakage paths. Fracture apertures and permeability can be altered through mineral dissolution and precipitation reactions, but the reactive evolution of fractures is not well understood. In fractures, minerals that are otherwise inaccessible to reactive fluids can become exposed, resulting in mineral reactions unpredicted by bulk formation data. This work seeks to understand the relationship between mineralogy and fracture formation to enhance our understanding of reactive fracture evolution and CO2 leakage potential. Here, the mineral compositions of mechanically induced fracture surfaces in samples of the Mancos and Marcellus shales have been quantified and compared to those of the near-fracture matrices using imaging and bulk X-ray diffraction (XRD) data. In the Mancos shale, the concentrations of clay minerals are enhanced along fracture surfaces with respect to the bulk, and the fracture is most likely to form at kaolinite–kaolinite interfaces. Evaluation of the mineralogical spatial variability through cross-correlation analysis of the surrounding matrix in images of samples cut perpendicular to the fracture shows that clay is 16.7 times more likely to be present than carbonate minerals near the fracture surface. The high correlation persists roughly 200 μm into the surrounding matrix for the Mancos sample and implies that the fracture formed within a defined clay-rich lithofacies.