The Analysis of the Fracturing Mechanism and Brittleness Characteristics of Anisotropic Shale Based on Finite-Discrete Element Method

Hongtao Li*, David Chapman, Asaad Faramarzi, Nicole Metje

*Corresponding author for this work

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Shale anisotropy characteristics have great effects on the mechanical behaviour of the rock. Understanding shale anisotropic behaviour is one of the key interests to several geo-engineering fields, including tunnel, nuclear waste disposal and hydraulic fracturing. This research adopted the finite discrete element method (FDEM) to create anisotropic shale models in ABAQUS. The FDEM models were calibrated using the mechanical values obtained from published laboratory tests on Longmaxi shale. The results show that the anisotropic features of shale significantly affect the brittleness and fracturing mechanism at the micro-crack level. The total fracture number in shale under the Uniaxial Compressive Strength (UCS) test is not only related to the brittleness of shale. It is also strongly dependent on the structure of the shale, which is sensitive to shale anisotropy. Two new brittleness indices, BIf and BICD, have been proposed in this paper. The expression for BIf directly incorporates the number of fractures formed inside of the rock, which provides a more accurate frac-ability using this brittleness index. It can be used to calculate the frac-ability of rocks in projects where there are concerns about fractures after excavation. Meanwhile, BICD links brittleness to the CD/UCS ratio in shale for the first time. BICD is easy to obtain in comparison to other brittleness indices because it is based on the Uniaxial Compressive Strength test only. In addition, it has been shown there is a relationship between tensile strength and the crack damage strength in shale. Based on this, an empirical relationship has been proposed to predict the tensile strength based on the Uniaxial Compressive Strength test.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences
Early online date23 Dec 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

This study was funded by the School of Engineering, University of Birmingham and the China Scholarship Council (CSC).


  • Shale anisotrophy
  • FDEM
  • Bedding planes
  • Brittleness index


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