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Effects of spatial heterogeneity and material anisotropy on the fracture pattern and macroscopic effective toughness of Mancos Shale in Brazilian tests

Na, SeonHong; Sun, WaiChing; Ingraham, Mathew D.; Yoon, Hongkyu

For assessing energy-related activities in the subsurface, it is important to investigate the impact of the spatial variability and anisotropy on the geomechanical behavior of shale. The Brazilian test, an indirect tensile-splitting method, is performed in this work, and the evolution of strain field is obtained using digital image correlation. Experimental results show the significant impact of local heterogeneity and lamination on the crack pattern characteristics. For numerical simulations, a phase field method is used to simulate the brittle fracture behavior under various Brazilian test conditions. In this study, shale is assumed to consist of two constituents including the stiff and soft layers to which the same toughness but different elastic moduli are assigned. Microstructural heterogeneity is simplified to represent mesoscale (e.g., millimeter scale) features such as layer orientation, thickness, volume fraction, and defects. The effect of these structural attributes on the onset, propagation, and coalescence of cracks is explored. The simulation results show that spatial heterogeneity and material anisotropy highly affect crack patterns and effective fracture toughness, and the elastic contrast of two constituents significantly alters the effective toughness. However, the complex crack patterns observed in the experiments cannot completely be accounted for by either an isotropic or transversely isotropic effective medium approach. This implies that cracks developed in the layered system may coalesce in complicated ways depending on the local heterogeneity, and the interaction mechanisms between the cracks using two-constituent systems may explain the wide range of effective toughness of shale reported in the literature.


Also Published In

Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth

More About This Work

Academic Units
Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics
Published Here
August 25, 2017
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