Role of geomechanically grown fractures on dispersive transport in heterogeneous geological formations

H. M. Nick, A. Paluszny, M. J. Blunt, S. K. Matthai

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


A second order in space accurate implicit scheme for time-dependent advection-dispersion equations and a discrete fracture propagation model are employed to model solute transport in porous media. We study the impact of the fractures on mass transport and dispersion. To model flow and transport, pressure and transport equations are integrated using a finite-element, node-centered finite-volume approach. Fracture geometries are incrementally developed from a random distributions of material flaws using an adoptive geomechanical finite-element model that also produces fracture aperture distributions. This quasistatic propagation assumes a linear elastic rock matrix, and crack propagation is governed by a subcritical crack growth failure criterion. Fracture propagation, intersection, and closure are handled geometrically. The flow and transport simulations are separately conducted for a range of fracture densities that are generated by the geomechanical finite-element model. These computations show that the most influential parameters for solute transport in fractured porous media are as follows: fracture density and fracture-matrix flux ratio that is influenced by matrix permeability. Using an equivalent fracture aperture size, computed on the basis of equivalent permeability of the system, we also obtain an acceptable prediction of the macrodispersion of poorly interconnected fracture networks. The results hold for fractures at relatively low density.
Original languageEnglish
Article number056301
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number5
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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