FracPaQ: A MATLAB™ toolbox for the quantification of fracture patterns

David Healy*, Roberto E. Rizzo, David G. Cornwell, Natalie J C Farrell, Hannah Watkins, Nick E. Timms, Enrique Gomez-Rivas, Michael Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

176 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


The patterns of fractures in deformed rocks are rarely uniform or random. Fracture orientations, sizes, and spatial distributions often exhibit some kind of order. In detail, relationships may exist among the different fracture attributes, e.g. small fractures dominated by one orientation, larger fractures by another. These relationships are important because the mechanical (e.g. strength, anisotropy) and transport (e.g. fluids, heat) properties of rock depend on these fracture attributes and patterns. This paper describes FracPaQ, a new open source, cross-platform toolbox to quantify fracture patterns, including distributions in fracture attributes and their spatial variation. Software has been developed to quantify fracture patterns from 2-D digital images, such as thin section micrographs, geological maps, outcrop or aerial photographs or satellite images. The toolbox comprises a suite of MATLAB™ scripts based on previously published quantitative methods for the analysis of fracture attributes: orientations, lengths, intensity, density and connectivity. An estimate of permeability in 2-D is made using a parallel plate model. The software provides an objective and consistent methodology for quantifying fracture patterns and their variations in 2-D across a wide range of length scales, rock types and tectonic settings. The implemented methods presented are inherently scale independent, and a key task where applicable is analysing and integrating quantitative fracture pattern data from micro-to macro-scales. The toolbox was developed in MATLAB™ and the source code is publicly available on GitHub™ and the Mathworks™ FileExchange. The code runs on any computer with MATLAB installed, including PCs with Microsoft Windows, Apple Macs with Mac OS X, and machines running different flavours of Linux. The application, source code and sample input files are available in open repositories in the hope that other developers and researchers will optimise and extend the functionality for the benefit of the wider community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Structural Geology
Early online date9 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017

Bibliographical note

We thank Graham Leslie (BGS Edinburgh) for arranging access to the Spireslack open cast pit, and the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust for permission to work there. Thanks to Clive Rice for showing us Souter Head. This work forms part of a NERC New Investigator award for DH (NE/I001743/1), which is gratefully acknowledged. We also thank Peter Chung at Glasgow for acquiring the SEM BSE images, and Mike Heap at EOST Strasbourg for deforming the Hopeman Sandstone sample. We acknowledge the use and incorporation of lineSegmentIntersect.m by U. Murat Erdem and readtext.m by Peder Axensten, both freely available on the Mathworks FileExchange. We acknowledge detailed and constructive reviews by Paul Gillespie and Mark Fischer, which, together with careful and detailed editorial comments by Bill Dunne, have greatly improved our manuscript.


  • fracture
  • pattern
  • attribute
  • scaling
  • permeability
  • software


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