Natural fractures in Vaca Muerta are very complex, such that their fracture width distributions cannot be analyzed simply by considering normal, log normal, or log-log distributions. Natural fractures are commonly classified as macrofractures or microfractures; however, no consistent fracture width is attached to those fractures. In this study, two new approaches are proposed; an improved fracture width distribution, and a classification for natural fractures that encompasses all physical widths found in petroleum reservoirs.

The method developed in this study first evaluates the distribution of natural fracture widths from outcrops, cores, and micro-resistivity images of Vaca Muerta shale. An improved fracture width distribution is established through a Variable Shape Distribution (VSD). The model provides a good fit, even if the shape of the distribution deviates from generally accepted distributions. This improves the accuracy of fracture width and intensity prediction, which is useful in generating synthetic production logs (PLT) to estimate productivity from fractured intervals. Subsequently, a consistent classification for natural fractures is introduced to cover all fracture widths found in petroleum reservoirs.

Results indicate that fracture widths at Vaca Muerta range between 0.0003 and 7 mm for outcrops, 0.0003 and 2 mm for cores, and 0.01 and 2 mm for micro-resistivity images. The VSD model provides a good fit of fracture widths from the three sources, without truncating any of the data. Truncation of data is usually required when using generally accepted distributions. With this improved distribution, size pattern extrapolation can be performed with greater accuracy. The physical widths can also be translated into hydraulic apertures to generate theoretical PLT. This is useful for estimating relative petroleum production potential from each fractured interval, and for identifying future refracturing zones. Additionally, the study gives origin to a consistent classification of fracture widths that has application in Vaca Muerta and other oil and gas reservoirs. Five sub-classes are introduced, which are megafractures (> 10mm), macrofractures (1 to 10 mm), mesofractures (0.1 to 1 mm), microfractures (0.01 to 0.1 mm) and nanofractures (< 0.01 mm). Careful review of the literature indicates that there is ambivalence as it is hard to find a clear and precise terminology that encompasses the whole range of fracture widths. The proposed classification eliminates that difficulty.

This paper develops for the first time, a consistent fracture width classification that encompasses the whole spectrum of widths found in petroleum reservoirs. It has wide application in Vaca Muerta where widths, derived from outcrops, cores and micro-resistivity images data are matched with a VSD model. Furthermore, the proposed classification can be used in other oil and gas reservoirs thus eliminating the fracture width ambivalence found many times in the geoscience and petroleum engineering literature.

You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.