Effect of Shear Displacement and Stress Changes on Fracture Hydraulic Aperture and Flow Anisotropy

Nathan J. Welch, J. William Carey, Luke P. Frash, Jeffrey D. Hyman, Wes Hicks, Meng Meng, Wenfeng Li, Anne H. Menefee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Fluid flow in fractures has the potential to drastically change the economic, environmental, and safety risks associated with a subsurface operation. This work focuses on the analysis of experimental shear fracturing and subsequent shear displacement of a shale specimen that contains multiple pre-existing natural fractures. A triaxial direct shear apparatus with concurrent µCT imaging allowed continuous monitoring of sample permeability and changes in fracture geometry during fracture creation, displacement, and changes in stress. Steady-state, low Reynolds number fluid flow simulations were used to determine the changes of each individual fracture’s hydraulic aperture due to displacement and effective stress. The development of anisotropy in the hydraulic aperture of a generated shear fracture was determined for shear displacements of 0.38, 0.74, and 2.04 mm. At high confining stress (30 MPa), shear displacement significantly reduced the hydraulic aperture of the shear fracture to below flow detectable limits and X-ray imaging resolution (23 × 23 × 23 µm3). The shear generated fracture was found to be more sensitive to changes in effective stress compared to the pre-existing natural fractures. Existing models derived from fluid flow equations accounting for stochastic fracture roughness were able to partially fit the simulated flow properties of the pre-existing fractures, but no model was found to fit the flow properties of the newly formed shear fracture. These results are the first report of simultaneous changes in the geometry and flow properties of surrounding, parallel natural fractures as a shear fracture is generated with varying stress and shear displacement conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-47
Number of pages31
JournalTransport in Porous Media
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • Chemical Engineering(all)


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