X-ray micro-computed tomography and ultrasonic velocity analysis of fractured shale as a function of effective stress

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Marine and Petroleum Geology




School of Engineering




This study was funded by Open Foundation of Shaanxi Key Laboratory of Carbon Dioxide Sequestration and Enhanced Oil Recovery (under planning) in China, and also supported by Special Fund from the State Key Laboratory of Continental Dynamics in China, National and Local Joint Engineering Research Center for Carbon Capture Utilization and Sequestration at Northwest University in China and Young Talent fund of University Association for Science and Technology in Shaanxi, China. The measurements were performed using the microCT system of the National Geosequestration Laboratory (NGL) of Australia. Funding for the facilities was provided by the Australian Federal Government. This work was also supported by the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, who provided the Avizo 9.2 image processing software and workstation, with funding from the Australian Government and the Government of Western Australia.


Originally published as: Yu, H., Zhang, Y., Lebedev, M., Wang, Z., Li, X., Squelch, A., ...Iglauer, S. (2019). X-ray micro-computed tomography and ultrasonic velocity analysis of fractured shale as a function of effective stress. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 110, 472-482.

Original article available here.


Ultrasonic velocity is a key shale gas reservoir property, especially in the context of gas production or CO2 injection for geo-sequestration. This ultrasonic velocity reflects the dynamic elastic properties of the rock, and it thus depends on the fracture morphology, which varies significantly with effective stress. However, the precise relationship between ultrasonic velocity and fractured shale morphology is only poorly understood. We thus measured P- and S-wave velocities of fractured shale in two orthogonal directions and imaged the shale with X-ray micro-computed tomography as a function of applied effective stress; and investigated how fracture morphology, P- and S-wave velocity, Young's modulus, shear velocity and Poisson's ratio are interconnected with effective stress. Clearly, most of the small fractures (the width is around 0.1 mm) closed with increasing effective stress, resulting in a different fracture size distribution, which again had a dramatic effect on the elastic rock properties. Furthermore, with increasing effective stress, P- and S-wave velocities increased significantly, such that the orthogonal waves gave a similar response at 2000 psi effective stress despite significant sample heterogeneity. We conclude that the fracture aperture, direction and network characteristics severely influence wave propagation and thus elastic properties. These results can be used to assess natural fracture networks, monitor fracture development during hydraulic fracturing, and predict fracture closure scenarios during production.