Cracks in kerogen-rich shales and other brittle rock-like materials have a tremendous impact on their elastic properties and strength. In this paper, we investigate the effective mechanical properties of shale plates with pre-existing cracks. We employ the extended finite element method (XFEM) to investigate a pre-cracked medium with an elastic, isotropic and brittle shale matrix. We show how the mechanical properties of the orthotropic shale plates are dependent on the crack density and the standard deviation of crack angles. Both the Young's modulus and the Poisson's ratio of the cracked media exhibit a linear dependence on the standard deviation of crack angles, in contrast to the nonlinear dependence of the strength on the angle deviation. Finally, we propose mechanical models to capture the relationship between the mechanical properties and the distribution characteristics of pre-existing cracks in shales. These phenomenological models could be applied to estimate the fracking behavior of shales in engineering practice. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
The authors acknowledge support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (Grant no. 11425211) and MOST 973 of China (Grant no. 2012CB937500).