Determination of stress orientation and magnitude in deep wells

M. D. Zoback*, C. A. Barton, M. Brudy, D. A. Castillo, T. Finkbeiner, B. R. Grollimund, D. B. Moos, P. Peska, C. D. Ward, D. J. Wiprut

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

897 Scopus citations


In this paper, we review a suite of techniques for determination of in situ stress orientation and magnitude in deep wells and boreholes. As these techniques can be utilized in both vertical and highly deviated wells, they have had extensive application in the petroleum industry where knowledge of stress orientation and magnitude at depth is important for addressing a wide range of problems. The techniques we have developed for estimation of the maximum horizontal principal stress, SHmax, make extensive use of observations of non-catastrophic failures of the wellbore wall-both compressive failures (breakouts) and tensile failures (drilling-induced tensile fractures) as well as the stress perturbations associated with slip on faults cutting through the wellbore. The widespread use of wellbore imaging in the petroleum industry has been a critical development that makes utilization of these techniques possible. In addition to reviewing the theoretical basis for these techniques, we present case studies derived from oil and gas fields in different parts of the world. These case studies document the facts that the techniques described here yield (i) consistent stress orientations and magnitudes over appreciable depth ranges within and between wells in a given field (thus indicating that the techniques are independent of formation properties), (ii) stress magnitudes that are consistent with absolute and relative stress magnitudes predicted by Anderson and Coulomb faulting theories, (iii) stress orientations and relative magnitudes that are consistent with regional stress indicators and tectonics observed with other techniques at much larger scales and (iv) sufficiently well-constrained estimates of the full stress tensor that are useful in application to engineering problems such as wellbore stability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1049-1076
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank Stephen Willson and Naomi Boness for their helpful comments on an early version of this manuscript. Many of the stress measurement techniques described in this paper were developed with financial support from the Stanford Rock and Borehole Geophysics (SRB) consortium.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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