--> Elastic Fracture Analysis in the Tight Gas Sands of the Mesaverde Formation, Piceance Basin, Colorado, by Jay R. Scheevel1, #10114 (2006).

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PSElastic Fracture Analysis in the Tight Gas Sands of the Mesaverde Formation, Piceance Basin, Colorado*


Jay R. Scheevel1


Search and Discovery Article #10114 (2006)

Posted October 6, 2006


*Adapted from poster presentation at AAPG Annual Convention, Houston, Texas, April 9-12, 2006


Click to view posters in PDF format (~1.1 mb).


1Scheevel Geo Technologies, LLC, Grand Junction, CO ([email protected])



I present theory and supporting mechanical data demonstrating that elevated pore pressures (and consequent elastic grain shrinkage) are capable of inducing tensional framework stresses in the Mesaverde rocks of the Piceance Basin of northwestern Colorado. Elevated pore pressures in the basin are the result of gas generation in Upper Cretaceous Mesaverde coals. Tensional framework stress conditions inevitably result in the spontaneous creation and opening of extension fractures in these clastic lithologies.  

This treatment makes use of linear elastic theory. I solve explicitly for the contributions of both framework- and grain-volume deformations resulting from specific overburden-, tectonic-, pore-pressure-, and temperature-induced strains. Fracturing is enabled by the presence of a zero lateral strain boundary condition. This boundary condition is imposed because of the semi-infinite lateral extent of layered rocks in the subsurface basinal setting.  

Data from the Multi-Well Experiment (MWX) illustrates my conclusions. The MWX was a multi-year, multi-million dollar Department of Energy (DOE)-sponsored experimental study of the Mesaverde tight gas sands and has proven to be a wealth of both data and insight on the Mesaverde lithologies of the Piceance Basin.  

Rock mechanics charts illustrate the results of the elastic analysis, showing the onset and opening tendency of fractures in rocks over a spectrum of rock-mechanical properties and pore-pressure gradients. To reveal how the Mesaverde lithologies may respond to subsurface conditions, rocks from the MWX test wells are depicted on these charts, predicting that open fractures will result from pore-pressure gradients in the 0.5 to 0.8 psi/ft range.


Selected Figures 

Location map for Piceance Basin (modified from Law and Johnson, 1989).

Structural cross-section, Piceance Basin (Grand Mesa to Grand Hogback), showing interval of continuous gas saturation.

Pore-pressure profile (modified from Spencer, 1989).

Graph of Poisson’s ratio vs. Young’s modulus, illustrating that tensional fracturing is expected to the right and below each curve in the presence of the indicated pore-pressure gradient.



Law, B.E., and Johnson, R.C., 1989, Structural and stratigraphic fa=ramework of the Pinedale anticline, Wyoming, and the Multiwell Experiment site, Colorado: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1886, p. B1-B11.

Lorenz, J.C., A.R. Sattler, and C.L. Stein, 1989, The effects of depositional environment on petrophysical properties of Mesaverde reservoirs, northwestern Colorado, in Formation evaluation and reservoir geology, SPE Publ. No. 64, p. 119-132.

Spencer, C.W., 1989, Comparison of overpressuring at the Pinedale anticline area, Wyoming, and the Multiwell Experiment site, Colorado: US. Geological Survey Bulletin 1886, p. C1-C16.

Warpinski, N.R., and L.W. Teufel, 1989, Viscoelastic constitutive model for determining in-situ magnitudes from anelastic strain recovery of core: SPE Production Engineering, v. 4, no. 3, p. 272-280.

Yurewicz, D.A., 2005, Controls on gas and water distribution, Mesaverde basin center gas play, Piceance Basin, Colorado (extended abstract): Search and Discovery Article #90042 (2005) (http://www.searchanddiscovery.net/documents/abstracts/2005hedberg_vail/abstracts/extended/yurewicz/yurewicz.htm.

Yurewicz, D.A., K.M. Bohacs, J.D. Yeakel, and K. Kronmueller, 2003, Source rock analysis and hydrocarbon generation, Mesaverde Group and Mancos Shale, northern Piceance Basin, Colorado, in Peterson, K. M., Olson, T. M., and Anderson, D. S., eds., Piceance Basin 2003 Guidebook: Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists, p. 130-153.