This paper documents the formation of natural fractures in the Horn River Group, a major Canadian shale gas play, and addresses relationships between natural-fracture development and rock-mechanical properties derived from cores and well logs. Most natural fractures in the Horn River Shale are narrow vertical fractures, sealed with carbonate minerals. In this study, the formation of observed fractures is primarily determined by a lithology type, mineral composition, and rock-mechanical properties at the timing of fracturing.

Brittleness is an important geomechanical property controlling the formation of fractures, because brittle shale is more easily fractured than ductile shale, and fractures in brittle shale tend to persist when the fracturing pressure is released. In this study, a hardness value measured by a commercial hardness tester is found to be a good proxy for the brittleness of shale layers. On the basis of a statistical analysis, the threshold values of both hardness and brittleness are estimated to predict the distribution of natural fractures, assuming that the mechanical properties of the host rock were relatively stable from at least the time at which fractures formed. Hardness values are shown to be more reliable than brittleness.

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