Predicting bulk permeability using outcrop fracture attributes: The benefits of a Maximum Likelihood Estimator

R. E. Rizzo, David Healy, L. De Siena

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


The success of any model prediction is largely dependent on the accuracy with which its parameters are known. In characterising fracture networks in naturally fractured rocks, the main issues are related with the difficulties in accurately up- and down-scaling the parameters governing the distribution of fracture attributes. Optimal characterisation and analysis of fracture attributes (fracture lengths, apertures, orientations and densities) represents a fundamental step which can aid the estimation of permeability and fluid flow, which are of primary importance in a number of contexts ranging from hydrocarbon production in fractured reservoirs and reservoir stimulation by hydrofracturing, to geothermal energy extraction and deeper Earth systems, such as earthquakes and ocean floor hydrothermal venting. This work focuses on linking fracture data collected directly from outcrops to permeability estimation and fracture network modelling. Outcrop studies can supplement the limited data inherent to natural fractured systems in the subsurface. The study area is a highly fractured upper Miocene biosiliceous mudstone formation cropping out along the coastline north of Santa Cruz (California, USA). These unique outcrops exposes a recently active bitumen-bearing formation representing a geological analogue of a fractured top seal. In order to validate field observations as useful analogues of subsurface reservoirs, we describe a methodology of statistical analysis for more accurate probability distribution of fracture attributes, using Maximum Likelihood Estimators. These procedures aim to understand whether the average permeability of a fracture network can be predicted reducing its uncertainties, and if outcrop measurements of fracture attributes can be used directly to generate statistically identical fracture network models.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015
EventAGU Fall Meeting - Moscone Centre, San Francisco, United States
Duration: 14 Dec 2015 → …


ConferenceAGU Fall Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco
Period14/12/15 → …

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