Fracture Characterization in Reactive Fluid-Fractured Rock Systems Using Tracer Transport Data

Friday, 19 December 2014
Sumit Mukhopadhyay, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, United States
Fractures, whether natural or engineered, exert significant controls over resource exploitation from contemporary energy sources including enhanced geothermal systems and unconventional oil and gas reserves. Consequently, fracture characterization, i.e., estimating the permeability, connectivity, and spacing of the fractures is of critical importance for determining the viability of any energy recovery program. While some progress has recently been made towards estimating these critical fracture parameters, significant uncertainties still remain.

A review of tracer technology, which has a long history in fracture characterization, reveals that uncertainties exist in the estimated parameters not only because of paucity of scale-specific data but also because of knowledge gaps in the interpretation methods, particularly in interpretation of tracer data in reactive fluid-rock systems. We have recently demonstrated that the transient tracer evolution signatures in reactive fluid-rock systems are significantly different from those in non-reactive systems (Mukhopadhyay et al., 2013, 2014). For example, the tracer breakthrough curves in reactive fluid-fractured rock systems are expected to exhibit a long pseudo-state condition, during which tracer concentration does not change by any appreciable amount with passage of time. Such a pseudo-steady state condition is not observed in a non-reactive system. In this paper, we show that the presence of this pseudo-steady state condition in tracer breakthrough patterns in reactive fluid-rock systems can have important connotations for fracture characterization. We show that the time of onset of the pseudo-steady state condition and the value of tracer concentration in the pseudo-state condition can be used to reliably estimate fracture spacing and fracture-matrix interface areas.