The seismic response to fracture clustering : a finite element wave propagation study
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Characterizing natural and man-made fracture networks is fundamental to predicting the storage capacity and pathways for flow of both carbonate and shale reservoirs. The goal of this study is to determine the seismic response specifically to networks of fractures clustered closely together through the analysis of seismic wavefield scatter, directional phase velocities, and amplitude attenuation. To achieve this goal, finite element modeling techniques are implemented to allow for the meshing of discontinuous fracture interfaces and, therefore, provide the most accurate calculation of seismic events from these irregular surfaces. The work presented here focuses on the center layer of an isotropic model that is populated with two main phases of fracture network alteration: a single large-scale cluster and multiple smaller-scale clusters. Phase 1 first confirms that the seismic response of a single idealized vertically fractured cluster is distinct crosscutting energy within a seismogram. Further investigation shows that, as fracture spacing within the cluster decreases, the depth at which crosscutting energy appears exponentially increases, placing it well below the true location of the cluster. This relationship holds until 28% of the fractures are moved from their uniformly spaced locations to random locations within the cluster. The vertical thickness of the cluster has little effect on the location or strength or the crosscutting signature. Phase 2 shows that, although clusters of more randomly spaced fractures mask crosscutting energy, a marked decrease in amplitude coinciding with a bend in the wavefront produces a heterogeneous anisotropic seismic response. This amplitude decay and heterogeneous anisotropy is visible until cluster spacing drops below one half of the wavelength or the ratio of fractured material to matrix material within a cluster drops below 37%. Therefore, the location of an individual fracture cluster can be determined from the location of amplitude decay, heterogeneous anisotropy, and crosscutting energy. Furthermore, the density of the cluster can be determined from the degree of amplitude decay, the angle of heterogeneous anisotropy, and the depth of cross-cutting energy. These relationships, constrained by limits on their detectability, can aid fracture network interpretation of real seismic data.