Natural fractures in a United Kingdom shale reservoir analog, Cleveland Basin, northeast England
Faults and fractures within the well-exposed Lower Jurassic Cleveland Ironstone and Whitby Mudstone Formations may provide insights into the tectonic history of gas-prospective, Mississippian shale in northern England. Subvertical opening mode fractures occur throughout the Cleveland Basin. Bed-parallel fractures, some of which contain blocky calcite fills, occur preferentially within well-bedded, clay-rich mudstones of the Cleveland Ironstone and Whitby Mudstone Formations at Jet Wyke and Port Mulgrave. Subvertical fractures display abutting or curving-parallel relationships with under- and overlying bed-parallel fractures. Together, these observations suggest that bed-parallel fractures, at times, acted as free surfaces. Some bed-parallel fractures curve toward and branch from calcite-filled fault slip surfaces, indicating that bed-parallel fracturing and normal faulting were synchronous, occurring within a regional stress field with vertical maximum principal stress. This apparent paradox can be explained by normal compaction, followed by cementation and coupling between pore pressure and minimum horizontal stress driven by poroelastic deformation or incipient slip along critically stressed normal faults, causing elevation of horizontal stress in excess of the vertical stress within clay-rich units. Propagation of bed-parallel fractures was enhanced by dilatational strains adjacent to normal fault planes. Bed-parallel fractures have not been observed within more silica-rich units at the top of the Whitby Mudstone Formation at Whitby East Cliff, or within well-bedded, clay-rich shale at Saltwick Nab. This observation is consistent with the lack of normal faulting at Saltwick Nab, and the Whitby Mudstone Formation having been drained by structural and/or stratigraphical juxtaposition against permeable Middle Jurassic sandstones at both these localities.