MG360 and FracMan

FracMan code is the worlds first commercially available DFN (Discrete Fractured Network) software. Golder created this software to support the need for advanced technology to analyze complex fractured rock systems (FracMan, 2021). 

FracMan has been widely used in consultancy to solve problems related to civil and infrastructure, mining, oil/gas and renewable energies, as well as power and nuclear waste. However, the applications and capabilities of FracMan extend well beyond the use in consulting and industry. Here at MG360, our research has greatly benefitted from using FracMan to analyze results on multiple projects and theses.  

Back in 2011, the first application of FracMan amongst the MG360 group was during Dr. Jonathan Munn’s MSc program. Jon specifically needed DFN software that could handle the varying borehole orientations, plot the fracture data on stereonets, compensate for sampling bias, calculate fracture statistics and ultimately model the fracture network.  

Through longstanding connections with Golder, Director of MG360 and Jon’s then MSc advisor, Dr. Beth Parker, suggested he use FracMan. Since then, FracMan has been used to support the analysis and research of multiple theses, dissertations and publications amongst the institute.  

Some examples of how FracMan has been used to support MG360 research are mentioned below. Four of these examples are from MSc and PhD theses at the University of Guelph, and one is from a recently published journal article. These examples are meant to highlight ways in which our team has used FracMan, and is not intended to be an exhaustive list of FracMan’s capabilities. Some figures are included to demonstrate how FracMan can be used to communicate and conceptualize complex data in clear, and visually appealing ways. More details can be found at the respective reference.  

In 2012, Jonathan Munn completed his MSc Thesis titled High‐resolution discrete fracture network characterization using inclined coreholes in a Silurian dolostone aquifer in Guelph, Ontario. Some examples of how Jon used FracMan v7.4 include:  

  • Calculating linear fracture intensities from a combination of inclined and vertical boreholes 
  • Defining mechanical stratigraphy using cumulative fracture intensity plots  
  • Orientation analysis using structure logs for fracture depth, dip-direction and dip-angle as parameters  
  • Analysis of fracture set distributions using the interactive set identification system (ISIS)  
  • 3D representation of wells and fracture data (Figure 7)

Figure 7: 3-D representations of the three coreholes (MW-25, ACH-01, and ACH-02). (A) represents a plan view of the wells; (B) cross section view looking east; (C) 3-D visualization of well trajectory and fracture orientation data from the acoustic televiewer.” (Munn, 2012) 

In 2015, Andrey Fomenko completed his MSc Thesis titled An Integrated Lithostratigraphic and Geomechanical Conceptualization of Dense Fracture Networks in a Shallow Paleozoic Dolostone. Some examples of how Andrey used Fracman v7.5 include:  

  • Conceptualize a detailed fracture network using three mechanical layers (Figure 6.27) 
  • The creation of FracMan stereonets to analyze fracture distribution for geomechanical units (Figure 6.28) 
  • Statistical analysis of fracture distribution between fracture clusters  
  • Preliminarty 3-D DFN representation of the fracture network at the MG360 Fractured Rock Observatory (FRO)  

Figure 6.27: The DFN model presenting research site fracture network using the FracMan software. The different colors show 6 fracture sets generated separately as it is mentioned in the ISIS statistics in table 5.12.” (Fomenko, 2015)  

“Figure 6.28: Stereonets presenting the fracture distribution at the BAFF (left) and the Guelph Tool (right) research sites. The stereonets include full intervals of three angled and one vertical wells (BAFF GDC-04, 05, 11, and 12; Guelph Tool ACH-01, 02, 03 and MW-25). Schmidt Equal-Area Projection, Lower Hemisphere.” (Fomenko, 2015) 

In 2016, Lucas Andreata Ribeiro completed his MSc Thesis titled Constraining a Discrete Fracture Network static model for the Tunnel City Group sandstones in Cottage Grove-WI using Outcrops and Boreholes. Some examples of how FracMan was used in this thesis include:  

  • Stereonet analysis  
  • Development of a DFN static model to create a three-dimensional DFN simulation (Figure VI-1). 

Figure VI-1: DFN static model presenting adjusted transmissivity values in subvertical joints after matching simulated anisotropy ratios with reference anisotropy ratios (Parker et al. 2016). The bedding plane parallel fractures are represented in yellow reflecting the 1E-5 m2 /s transmissivity assigned in the initial model. Color contrast between subvertical joints and bedding plane parallel fractures reflect the anisotropy ratios adjusted.” (Ribeiro, 2016)  

In 2017, Celia Kennedy completed her PhD Thesis titled Groundwater – Surface Water Interactions in the Discrete Fracture Networks of Bedrock Rivers. Some ways in which Celia used FracMan v7.5 to visualize and conceptualize her data include:  

  • Mapping of horizontal bedding fracture and vertical fractures which terminate the surface of dolostone outcrops (Figure 2.3) 
  • Modelling of surface elevation, overlaid with vertical fracture distribution (Figure 3.6)  
  • Modelling of spatial distribution of groundwater fluxes and vertical hydraulic gradients (Figure 3.11) 
  • Generation of 3-D models conceptualizing the fracture network using fracture log data (Figure C-1) 

Figure 2.3. Location of study reach along the Eramosa River, in Guelph, ON, Canada, which flows in a southeasterly direction, and encompasses a riffle-pool sequence within a river bend. Dolostone outcrops exhibit horizontal bedding fractures and vertical fractures that terminate at surface, which were mapped with FracMan v.7.5 (Golder Associates Inc., Redmond, USA). Spatial distribution of the subset, BSMs 4, 10 and 15, along with river stage gauges (SG1 and SG2) and river piezometers (P3 and P5). [NAD 1983 UTM Zone 17N Geographic Coordinate System; MNR SWOOP 2010; ESRI ArcMap v.10.2.1; FracMan v.7.5].” (Kennedy, 2017) 

“Figure 3.6. Modelled elevation surface (2-D) of study reach, where topographic layer was overlaid with vertical fracture distribution, measured at surface, and constructed with FracMan Software (v.7.5, Golder Associates Inc. – FracMan Technology Group, Redmond, WA, USA). 3-D spatial distribution of the BSMs, identified by number, is represented in this 2-D plane by elevation classifications of shallow (310.50 – 310.63 masl), mid-depth (310.40 – 310.49 masl) and deep (310.30 – 310.39 masl) installations. Contour interval is 310.00 – 311.60 masl. NAD 1983 UTM Zone 17N Geographic Coordinate System.” (Kennedy, 2017)  

Figure 3.11. Spatial distribution of vertical hydraulic gradients (∆ℎ𝑟𝑒𝑙⁄∆𝐿) at high river stage within the contoured elevation model of the study site. Monitoring devices are identified as BSMs () and river piezometers (). Gradients are indicated by value within the device symbol and by colour-ranking. The high-𝑞 zone from Figure 3.9 is delineated by a red line. Refer to Figure 3.6 for BSM ID numbers. [NAD 1983 UTM Zone 17N Geographic Coordinate System; Surfer v.13.6; FracMan v.7.5].” (Kennedy, 2017)  

Fig. C-1. Post-drilling conceptual model of corehole pairs installed to inform the 3-D static fracture model, constructed with FracMan (v.7.5, Golder Associates Inc. – FracMan Technology Group, Redmond, WA, USA).” (Kennedy, 2017)  

In March of 2023 Kenley Bairos, Patrik Quinn, Pete Pehme and Beth Parker published a paper titled Enumerating hydraulically active fractures using multiple, high-resolution datasets to inform plume transport in a sandstone aquifer in the Journal of Hydrology. FracMan was used for multiple purposes including: 

  • Identifying and assigning core-informed OTV fractures to either a bedding parallel set, northeast-southwest striking set or a northwest-southeast striking set (Figure 8) 
  • Statistical analysis to estimate true fracture intensity using the Terzaghi method (Figure 9) 

Figure 8: a) Rose plots comparing the frequency of dip directions observed in the informed and active fractures. b) Rose plots comparing the strike direction of the Sub-Vertical sets (NESW and NWSE striking) of the informed and active fractures c) The relative frequency of the bedding set remains the same in the active set while the joint sets show minor variation between the informed and active fractures.” (Bairos et al., 2023) 

Figure 9: a) Contoured stereonets of the core informed OTV fractures and active fractures show three distinct fracture sets (plotted using the fracture poles). b) The comparison of the uncorrected and corrected fracture frequencies indicates that all three sets were under sampled with the greatest bias occurring in the sub-vertical sets. After the correcting, the NESW set becomes most dominate.” (Bairos et al., 2023) 

FracMan has been an indispensable tool amongst our team for the analysis of fractured network data and the communication of results. If this article has piqued your interest, check out the reference list below or click here to learn more about FracMan and how you can incorporate it into your own research.  


Bairos, K., Quinn, P., Pehme, P., & Parker, B. L. (2023). Enumerating hydraulically active fractures using multiple, high-resolution datasets to inform plume transport in a sandstone aquifer. Journal of Hydrology, 619, 129362.  

Fracman. Golder. (2021, June 22). 

Fomenko, A. (2015). An integrated lithostratigraphic and geomechanical conceptualization of dense fracture networks in a shallow Paleozoic dolostone (MSc Thesis). School of Engineering, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada. 

Kennedy, C (2017). Groundwater – Surface Water Interactions in the Discrete Fracture Networks of Bedrock Rivers. (PhD Thesis). School of Engineering, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.  

Munn, J. (2012). High-resolution discrete fracture network characterization using inclined coreholes in a Silurian Dolostone Aquifer in Guelph, Ontario (MSc Thesis). School of Engineering, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.  

Ribeiro, L. A. F. S. (2016). Constraining a discrete fracture network static model for the tunnel city group sandstones in Cottage Grove-WI using outcrops and boreholes (MSc Thesis). School of Engineering, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada. 

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