Black shale members of the Upper Devonian Antrim Shale are both the source and reservoir for a regional gas accumulation that presently extends across parts of six counties in the northern part of the Michigan basin (fig. 1). Natural fractures are considered by most petroleum geologists and oil and gas operators who work the Michigan basin to be a necessary condition for commercial gas production in the Antrim Shale. Fractures provide the conduits for free gas and associated water to flow to the borehole through the black shale which, otherwise, has a low matrix permeability. Moreover, the fractures assist in the release of gas adsorbed on mineral and(or) organic matter in the shale (Curtis, 1992). Depths to the gas-producing intervals (Norwood and Lachine Members) generally range from 1,200 to 1,800 ft (Oil and Gas Journal, 1994). Locally, wells that produce gas from the accumulation are as deep as 2,200 (Oil and Gas Journal, 1994). Even though natural fractures are an important control on Antrim Shale gas production, most wells require stimulation by hydraulic fracturing to attain commercial production rates (Kelly, 1992). In the U.S. Geological Survey's National Assessment of United States oil and gas, Dolton (1995) estimates that, at a mean value, 4.45 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas are recoverable as additions to already discovered quantities from the Antrim Shale in the productive area of the northern Michigan trend. Dolton (1995) also suggests that undiscovered Antrim Shale gas accumulations exist in other parts of the Michigan basin.
The character, distribution, and origin of natural fractures in the Antrim Shale gas accumulation have been studied recently by academia and industry. The intent of these investigations is to: 1) predict 'sweet spots', prior to drilling, in the existing gas-producing trend, 2) improve production practices in the existing trend, 3) predict analogous fracture-controlled gas accumulations in other parts of the Michigan basin, and 4) improve estimates of the recoverable gas in the Antrim Shale gas plays (Dolton, 1995). This review of published literature on the characteristics of Antrim Shale fractures, their origin, and their controls on gas production will help to define objectives and goals in future U.S. Geological Survey studies of Antrim Shale gas resources.
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USGS Numbered Series
Fracture patterns and their origin in the upper Devonian Antrim Shale gas reservoir of the Michigan basin; a review