Semi-analytical model of cross-borehole flow experiments for fractured medium characterization

Friday, 19 December 2014
Delphine Roubinet1, James Irving1 and Frederick David Day-Lewis2, (1)University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland, (2)USGS, Storrs, CT, United States
The study of fractured rocks is extremely important in a wide variety of research fields where the fractures and faults can represent either rapid access to some resource of interest or potential pathways for the migration of contaminants in the subsurface. Identification of their presence and determination of their properties are critical and challenging tasks that have led to numerous fracture characterization methods. Among these methods, cross-borehole flowmeter analysis aims to evaluate fracture connections and hydraulic properties from vertical-flow-velocity measurements conducted in one or more observation boreholes under forced hydraulic conditions. Previous studies have demonstrated that analysis of these data can provide important information on fracture connectivity, transmissivity, and storativity.

Estimating these properties requires the development of analytical and/or numerical modeling tools that are well adapted to the complexity of the problem. Quantitative analysis of cross-borehole flowmeter experiments, in particular, requires modeling formulations that: (i) can be adapted to a variety of fracture and experimental configurations; (ii) can take into account interactions between the boreholes because their radii of influence may overlap; and (iii) can be readily cast into an inversion framework that allows for not only the estimation of fracture hydraulic properties, but also an assessment of estimation error. To this end, we present a new semi-analytical formulation for cross-borehole flow in fractured media that links transient vertical-flow velocities measured in one or a series of observation wells during hydraulic forcing to the transmissivity and storativity of the fractures intersected by these wells. Our model addresses the above needs and provides a flexible and computationally efficient semi-analytical framework having strong potential for future adaptation to more complex configurations. The proposed modeling approach is demonstrated in the context of sensitivity analysis for a relatively simple two-fracture synthetic problem, as well as in the context of field-data analysis for fracture connectivity and estimation of corresponding hydraulic properties.