Multiscale fracture network characterization and impact on flow: A case study on the Latemar carbonate platform

N. J. Hardebol, C. Maier, Hamid Nick, S. Geiger, G. Bertotti, H. Boro

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


A fracture network arrangement is quantified across an isolated carbonate platform from outcrop and aerial imagery to address its impact on fluid flow. The network is described in terms of fracture density, orientation, and length distribution parameters. Of particular interest is the role of fracture cross connections and abutments on the effective permeability. Hence, the flow simulations explicitly account for network topology by adopting Discrete-Fracture-and-Matrix description. The interior of the Latemar carbonate platform (Dolomites, Italy) is taken as outcrop analogue for subsurface reservoirs of isolated carbonate build-ups that exhibit a fracture-dominated permeability. New is our dual strategy to describe the fracture network both as deterministic-and stochastic-based inputs for flow simulations. The fracture geometries are captured explicitly and form a multiscale data set by integration of interpretations from outcrops, airborne imagery, and lidar. The deterministic network descriptions form the basis for descriptive rules that are diagnostic of the complex natural fracture arrangement. The fracture networks exhibit a variable degree of multitier hierarchies with smaller-sized fractures abutting against larger fractures under both right and oblique angles. The influence of network topology on connectivity is quantified using Discrete-Fracture-Single phase fluid flow simulations. The simulation results show that the effective permeability for the fracture and matrix ensemble can be 50 to 400 times higher than the matrix permeability of 1.0.10-14 m2. The permeability enhancement is strongly controlled by the connectivity of the fracture network. Therefore, the degree of intersecting and abutting fractures should be captured from outcrops with accuracy to be of value as analogue.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research-solid Earth
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)8197-8222
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


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