An automated fracture trace detection technique using the complex shearlet transform

Rahul Prabhakaran (Corresponding author), Pierre Olivier Bruna, Giovanni Bertotti, David Smeulders

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Representing fractures explicitly using a discrete fracture network (DFN) approach is often necessary to model the complex physics that govern thermo-hydro-mechanical-chemical processes (THMC) in porous media. DFNs find applications in modelling geothermal heat recovery, hydrocarbon exploitation, and groundwater flow. It is advantageous to construct DFNs from the photogrammetry of fractured outcrop analogues as the DFNs would capture realistic, fracture network properties. Recent advances in drone photogrammetry have greatly simplified the process of acquiring outcrop images, and there is a remarkable increase in the volume of image data that can be routinely generated. However, manually digitizing fracture traces is time-consuming and inevitably subject to interpreter bias. Additionally, variations in interpretation style can result in different fracture network geometries, which, may then influence modelling results depending on the use case of the fracture study. In this paper, an automated fracture trace detection technique is introduced. The method consists of ridge detection using the complex shearlet transform coupled with post-processing algorithms that threshold, skeletonize, and vectorize fracture traces. The technique is applied to the task of automatic trace extraction at varying scales of rock discontinuities, ranging from 10° to 102m. We present automatic trace extraction results from three different fractured outcrop settings. The results indicate that the automated approach enables the extraction of fracture patterns at a volume beyond what is manually feasible. Comparative analysis of automatically extracted results with manual interpretations demonstrates that the method can eliminate the subjectivity that is typically associated with manual interpretation. The proposed method augments the process of characterizing rock fractures from outcrops.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2137-2166
Number of pages30
JournalSolid Earth
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2019


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