Influence of geochemistry on toughening behavior of organic-rich shale

Ange Therese Akono*, Pooyan Kabir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Our research objective is to understand the influence of geochemistry on the fracture behavior of organic-rich shale at multiple length-scales. Despite an increasing focus on the fracture behavior of organic-rich shale, the relationships between geochemistry and fracture behavior remain unclear and there is a scarcity of experimental data available. To this end, we carry out 59 mesoscale scratch-based fracture tests on 14 specimens extracted from 7 major gas shale plays both in the USA and in France. Post-scratch testing imaging reveals fractures with a small crack width of about 411–660 nm. The fracture toughness is evaluated using the energetic size effect law, which is extended to generic axisymmetric probes. A nonlinear anisotropic and multiscale fracture behavior is observed. In addition, a positive correlation is found between the fracture toughness and the presence of kerogen, clay and calcite. Moreover, the geochemistry is found to influence the timescale and the regime of propagation of the hydraulic fracture at the macroscopic length-scale. In particular, shale systems rich in total organic content, clay and calcite are more likely to exhibit high values of the fluid lag and a low hydraulic crack width. Our findings highlight the need for advanced constitutive models for organic-rich shale systems and advanced hydraulic fracturing solutions that can fully integrate the complex fracture response of organic-rich shale materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1129-1142
Number of pages14
JournalActa Geotechnica
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019


  • Fracture
  • Geochemistry
  • Hydraulic Fracturing
  • Organic-rich shale
  • Scratch test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)

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