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Thin, vertical, planar fractures observed in the Mission Canyon Formation, at the Little Knife field, are naturally occurring and appear to be extension fractures. The predominant east-west trend of the fractures, measured in oriented core from six wells, parallels the contemporary maximum horizontal compressive stress in the Williston basin. The fractures occur only in carbonate units, but within the carbonates their occurrence is not lithology dependent. Fracture density measured in cores of the reservoir carbonates averages 1 ft (.3 m) of fracture per 2.3 ft (.7 m) of core.
The formation and mineralization of reservoir fractures were the most recent diagenetic events in the Mission Canyon Formation at Little Knife. Study of aqueous and hydrocarbon fluid inclusions associated with the fractures reveals: (1) fractures formed after the strata were buried to at least their present depth of 9,800 ft (2,987 m), which indicates their age is post-Mesozoic; (2) the pore-fluid pressure gradient was normal hydrostatic immediately after, if not during, fracture system development; (3) formation-water salinity has remained fairly constant since fracture initiation; (4) migration of hydrocarbons into the reservoir probably preceded fracture genesis; and (5) methane concentration may have decreased since fracture initiation.
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