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Title: Numerical simulation of fracture pattern development and implications for fluid flow
Author: Paluszny Rodriguez, Adriana
ISNI:       0000 0004 2686 9716
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2009
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Simulations are instrumental to understanding flow through discrete fracture geometric representations that capture the large-scale permeability structure of fractured porous media. The contribution of this thesis is threefold: an efficient finite-element finite-volume discretisation of the advection/diffusion flow equations, a geomechanical fracture propagation algorithm to create fractured rock analogues, and a study of the effect of growth on hydraulic conductivity. We describe an iterative geomechanics-based finite-element model to simulate quasi-static crack propagation in a linear elastic matrix from an initial set of random flaws. The cornerstones are a failure and propagation criterion as well as a geometric kernel for dynamic shape housekeeping and automatic remeshing. Two-dimensional patterns exhibit connectivity, spacing, and density distributions reproducing en echelon crack linkage, tip hooking, and polygonal shrinkage forms. Differential stresses at the boundaries yield fracture curving. A stress field study shows that curvature can be suppressed by layer interaction effects. Our method is appropriate to model layered media where interaction with neighbouring layers does not dominate deformation. Geomechanically generated fracture patterns are the input to single-phase flow simulations through fractures and matrix. Thus, results are applicable to fractured porous media in addition to crystalline rocks. Stress state and deformation history control emergent local fracture apertures. Results depend on the number of initial flaws, their initial random distribution, and the permeability of the matrix. Straightpath fracture pattern simplifications yield a lower effective permeability in comparison to their curved counterparts. Fixed apertures overestimate the conductivity of the rock by up to six orders of magnitude. Local sample percolation effects are representative of the entire model flow behaviour for geomechanical apertures. Effective permeability in fracture dataset subregions are higher than the overall conductivity of the system. The presented methodology captures emerging patterns due to evolving geometric and flow properties essential to the realistic simulation of subsurface processes.
Supervisor: Blunt, Martin ; Matthai, Stephan Sponsor: Janet Watson Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral