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Title: Coupled deformation, fluid flow and fracture propagation in porous media
Author: Lamb, Anthony Raphael
ISNI:       0000 0004 2704 6156
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2011
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Polygonal faults are non-tectonic fault systems which are layer-bound (at some vertical scale) and are widely developed in fine-grained sedimentary basins. Although several qualitative mechanisms have been hypothesised to explain the formation of these faults, there is a weak general consensus that they are formed by the coupled deformation and fluid expulsion of the host sediments (consolidation). This thesis presents a numerical framework that can be extended to investigate the role consolidation plays in the development and evolution of these faults. The method is also applicable to reservoir engineering and CO2 storage. An understanding of the coupled mechanical response and fluid flow is critical in determining compaction and subsidence in oil reservoirs and fault-seal integrity during CO2 disposal and storage. The technique uses a fracture mapping approach (FM) and the extended finite element method (XFEM) to modify the single phase FEM consolidation formulation. A key feature of FM-XFEM is its ability to include discontinuities into a model independently of the computational mesh. The fracture mapping approach is used to simulate the flow interaction between the matrix and existing fractures via a transfer function. Since fractures are represented using level set data, the need for complex meshing to describe fractures is not required. The XFEM component of the method simulates the influence of the pore fluid on the mechanical behaviour of the fractured medium. In XFEM, enrichment functions are added to the standard finite element approximation to ensure an accurate approximation of discontinuous fields within the simulation domain. FM-XFEM produces results comparative to the discrete fracture method on relatively coarse meshes. FM-XFEM has also been extended to model the propagation of existing fractures using a mixed-mode criterion applicable to geological media. Stress concentrations at the tips of existing fractures show good agreement with an analytical solution found in literature.
Supervisor: Gorman, Gerard ; Blunt, Martin Sponsor: Geoscience Research Centre
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral