Exploration and Production Technologies

Simulation-Enhanced Fracture Detection: Research and Demonstration in U.S. Basins


The goal of the project was to develop software for predicting the location, geometry, and characteristics of natural fracture zones.

The project aimed to integrate seismic inversion techniques with three dimensional basin modeling to better predict fracture locations and characteristics in gas producing basins of the U.S. The plan was to develop a 3-D reaction, transport, mechanical basin model (Basin RTM), and to augment that model with a simulation-enhanced fracture detection module that would predict fault and fracture-prone regions. The resulting simulator was to be tested to predict the location of fracture sweet spots in the Antrim and New Albany Shales of Harrison County, Indiana.

Performer: Indiana University

Bloomington, Indiana 47402

Project Impact:
This project may have some impact on basin simulation and basin modeling efforts that are underway at other institutions. The project developed a seismic inversion code that could possibly be adapted to other simulators for predicting rock properties. The project fell short of its planned impacts, because the Indiana University simulator is still not able to predict fracture properties.


  • Completed Geographic Information System (GIS) digital map coverages for the test area and compiled a database of simulation data for optimizing the comparison and analysis of observed and simulated data. The database also allows for rapidly exporting data to our GIS mapping software. A database user’s manual and CD-ROM titled “Simulation-enhanced fracture detection: Research and Demonstration in U.S. basins – Phase II – Illinois Basin test area database, Harrison County, Indiana” has been prepared.
  • Developed an interface between the database and the simulator for managing and transferring the voluminous data requirements. The interface will significantly improve the speed and efficiency of data analysis and map preparation.
  • Prepared cross sections comparing preliminary simulated/predicted data for compaction/porosity with observed geologic data.
  • Modified the Basin RTM simulator to input seismic data and to provide more calibration between simulated and observed seismic data.
  • Constructed a web interface called MAGI (Model Automated Geo Informatics) to simplify the process of collecting geologic data and performing simulations. This interface can be accessed from any computer to select wells and enter lithology data. Various parameters and settings for a simulation can also be specified and the simulation request can be submitted and monitored on line. 
  • Developed a three dimensional seismic wave propagation simulator that implements the seismic reciprocity principle. The code was presented at the 2003 AGU Fall Meeting by D-H. Sheen who received the best student presentation award in the seismology section.

Current Status and Remaining Tasks:
Phase II of the project concluded November 30, 2004.

Project Start Date: August 30, 2000
Project End Date: November 30, 2004

DOE Contribution: $ 421,434
Performer Contribution: $ 106,244

Contact Information:
NETL – Frances Cole Toro (304-285-4107 or frances.toro@netl.doe.gov
Indiana University – Peter Ortoleva (812-855-2717 or ortoleva@indiana.edu)

Additional Information:
Phase II Final Report - Simulation-Enhanced Fracture Detection: Research and Demonstration in U.S. Basins [PDF-8244KB]