International Journal of Fracture

, Volume 185, Issue 1–2, pp 187–194 | Cite as

Oil-Gas Transformation Induced Subcritical Crack Propagation and Coalescence in Petroleum Source Rocks

  • Z. Q. Fan
  • Z.-H. Jin
  • S. E. Johnson
Letters in Fracture and Micromechanics


The present work describes a multi-physics model to investigate subcritical propagation of initially oil-filled, sub-horizontal collinear microcracks driven by the excess pressure induced by the conversion of oil to gas in a petroleum source rock under continuous burial. The crack propagation distance, propagation duration, crack coalescence and excess pressure in the crack are determined using a finite difference scheme that couples linear elastic fracture mechanics, oil-gas transformation kinetics and an equation of state for the gas. The numerical results for a shale source rock with typical properties show that when the crack spacing parameter b/a0 is greater than 3, where a0 is the half crack length and b the half distance between the crack centers, the cracks do not coalesce, and the duration of gas-driven crack propagation is governed by the transformation kinetics because the oil-gas conversion rate is much slower than the subcritical crack propagation rate. The collinear cracks coalesce for smaller crack spacing and the crack propagation duration may reduce significantly due to crack interactions. The multi-physics model presented in this work together with our previous model for crack propagation during the conversion of solid kerogen to oil indicates that self-propagating microcracks resulting from the buildup of excess fluid pressure during hydrocarbon generation may serve as effective pathways for primary migration of hydrocarbons.


collinear cracks subcritical growth gas migration oil-gas conversion overpressure 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of MaineOronoUSA
  2. 2.School of Earth and Climate SciencesUniversity of MaineOronoUSA

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