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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

Four Corners Geological Society


Natural Fracture Systems in the Southern Rockies, 1999
Pages 97-104

Conjugate Fracture Pairs in the Molina Member of the Wasatch Formation, Piceance Basin, Colorado: Implications for Fracture Origins and Hydrocarbon Production/Exploration

John C. Lorenz


The sandstones of the Molina Member of the Wasatch Formation in the Piceance basin of northwestern Colorado contain a suite of fractures that have a conjugate-pair geometry. The fractures are vertical and intersect at an acute angle of between 20 and 40 degrees. Although direct evidence of shear is rare, the fracture surfaces commonly display small steps. The fracture geometries suggest that the maximum compressive stress during fracturing was in the plane of the acute angle of the conjugate fractures: the steps are interpreted as broken-face manifestations of very low angle en echelon fractures, formed within exceptionally narrow zones of incipient shear.

The conjugate pairs in the Molina sandstones should create a well connected and relatively isotropic mesh of fracture conductivity. In contrast to the highly anisotropic permeability enhancement created by sub-parallel vertical extension fractures in the underlying Mesaverde Formation, increases in stress magnitudes and anisotropy during production drawdown of reservoir pressures should cause shear offsets along the fractures, initially enhancing permeability.

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