A model of fracture-facilitated flow of hydrocarbons from petroleum source rock

Luke Pharr, Michael Marder, Tadeusz Patzek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study the processes by which petroleum originates in source rock and generates a transport path enabling some of it to leave. We show that diffusion through the source rock is too slow to account for the migration of petroleum. However when kerogen converts into petroleum within pores, it expands, and this expansion is sufficient to fracture the rock around the pores. Thus the transport of petroleum depends on whether these fractures connect up to form a macroscopic transport path. We develop a simulation tool that lets us study pressurized fluid in disk-shaped domains which expand and fracture the surrounding material. Examining pairs of pressurized pores, we obtain a lower limit for critical porosity in shale rock, ϕcrit.=0.15. When kerogen saturation exceeds this value, long-range transport paths become possible. This critical porosity is comparable to the porosities observed in immature shales.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Fracture
StatePublished - Dec 2 2022

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-12-06
Acknowledgements: This work was mainly supported by a Competitive Research Grant from KAUST, “Numerical and Experimental Investigation of Gas Distribution, Complex Hydrofractures and the Associated Flow in the Jafurah Basin Shales: Fundamentals to Applications.” Additional support was provided by the US National Science Foundation through Award No. 1810196, Fracture and Transport Problems for Inhomogeneous Brittle Materials. The opinions expressed in this work are not necessarily shared by the National Science Foundation.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Computational Mechanics


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