Modeling Dynamic Helium Release as a Tracer of Rock Deformation

W. Payton Gardner, Stephen J. Bauer, Kristopher L. Kuhlman, Jason E. Heath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


We use helium released during mechanical deformation of shales as a signal to explore the effects of deformation and failure on material transport properties. A dynamic dual-permeability model with evolving pore and fracture networks is used to simulate gases released from shale during deformation and failure. Changes in material properties required to reproduce experimentally observed gas signals are explored. We model two different experiments of 4He flow rate measured from shale undergoing mechanical deformation, a core parallel to bedding and a core perpendicular to bedding. We find that the helium signal is sensitive to fracture development and evolution as well as changes in the matrix transport properties. We constrain the timing and effective fracture aperture, as well as the increase in matrix porosity and permeability. Increases in matrix permeability are required to explain gas flow prior to macroscopic failure, and the short-term gas flow postfailure. Increased matrix porosity is required to match the long-term, postfailure gas flow. Our model provides the first quantitative interpretation of helium release as a result of mechanical deformation. The sensitivity of this model to changes in the fracture network, as well as to matrix properties during deformation, indicates that helium release can be used as a quantitative tool to evaluate the state of stress and strain in earth materials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8828-8838
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • deformation
  • dual permeability
  • fracture flow
  • isotope tracers
  • noble gases
  • numerical modeling


Dive into the research topics of 'Modeling Dynamic Helium Release as a Tracer of Rock Deformation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this