Fractures that propagate off of weak slip planes are known as wing cracks and often play important roles in both tectonic deformation and fluid flow across reservoir seals. Previous numerical models have produced the basic kinematics of wing crack openings but generally have not been able to capture fracture geometries seen in nature. Here we present both a phase-field modeling approach and a physical experiment using gelatin for a wing crack formation. By treating the fracture surfaces as diffusive zones instead of as discontinuities, the phase-field model does not require consideration of unpredictable rock properties or stress inhomogeneities around crack tips. It is shown by benchmarking the models with physical experiments that the numerical assumptions in the phase-field approach do not affect the final model predictions of wing crack nucleation and growth. With this study, we demonstrate that it is feasible to implement the formation of wing cracks in large scale phase-field reservoir models.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jacqueline-reber/1/