Relationship between fissility, composition, rock fabric and reservoir properties in Vaca Muerta Formation (Neuquén Basin, Argentina): from outcrop to subsurface core data

Lucía Inés Martín, Denis Marchal, Silvia Barredo, Claudio Naides, Silvia Blanco


The fissility is the ability of some rocks to split along relatively smooth surfaces parallel to the bedding. This property observed mostly in fine-grained rocks is particularly expressed in outcrops, where rocks are subjected to weathering processes. Most authors associate the fissility to the abundance of clay minerals and their orientation parallel to the bedding. The horizontal fabric can be promoted by depositional conditions such as sediment composition, quantity of total organic carbon content (TOC) and depositional mechanisms, giving rise to a primary fissility. Alternatively, the alignment of platy minerals can be linked to the burial history of the rock, by processes such as mechanical compaction or secondary mineral growth, resulting in a secondary fissility. The present study aims to identify the main controls of fissility development at the micro- and macroscopic scale in rocks of the Vaca Muerta Formation exposed in the Cerro Mulichinco area and in a 121-meter-long core extracted from a well within the Neuquén Basin. In outcrops, fissility is related to fine-grained laminated facies with low carbonate content, revealing the strong control exerted by lithology. The TOC measurements allow establishing a positive correlation between organic matter content and fissility intensity. Moreover, the analysis of the transgressive-regressive cycles shows that fissility is higher around the maximum flooding surfaces. Regarding their mechanical characteristics, the different interfaces observed in core are classified into first and second-order, the last one including fissility planes. Some of these interfaces evolve from potential (partially open) to effective (totally open) discontinuities in response to changes of stress conditions during the core extraction and due to the stress relaxation through time: weeks (T1), months (T2) and years (T3) after extraction. The time evolution of the effective core discontinuities points out rock intervals that are variably broken and core segments that remain intact. The Drying Alcohol Discontinuities (DAD) methodology reveals potential discontinuities within apparently intact core segments. By using this technique, a 4-class index is established as a proxy for fissility degree. When integrated with geological, petrophysical and geomechanical data, this index enables characterizing the main mechanisms controlling rock fissility that express through discontinuities promoting the loss of competence of a rock. Consequently, this mechanical property is considered to influence the efficiency of hydraulic fracture in shale reservoir completion.


Fissility; Vaca Muerta Formation; Discontinuity; Heterogeneity; Neuquén Basin; Argentina

How to cite this article Martín, L.; Marchal, D.; Barredo, S.; Naides, C.; Blanco, S. 2022, Relationship between fissility, composition, rock fabric and reservoir properties in Vaca Muerta Formation (Neuquén Basin, Argentina): from outcrop to subsurface core data. Andean Geology 49 (3) : 345-381. [doi:]