Flow and Transport in Smooth and Rough Unsaturated Wide Aperture Fractures with Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Jannes Kordilla1, Alexandre M Tartakovsky2 and Tobias Geyer1, (1)University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany, (2)Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, United States
Unsaturated flow in fractured porous media exhibits highly complex flow dynamics and a wide range of intermittent flow processes. Especially in wide aperture fractures, flow processes may be dominated by gravitational instead of capillary forces leading to a deviation from the classical volume effective approaches (Richard’s equation, Van Genuchten type relationships). The existence of various flow modes such as droplets, rivulets, turbulent and adsorbed films is well known, however, their spatial and temporal distribution within fracture networks is still an open question partially due to the lack of appropriate modeling tools. With our work we want to gain a deeper understanding of the underlying flow and transport dynamics in unsaturated fractured media in order to support the development of more refined upscaled methods, applicable on catchment scales. We present pore- and fracture-scale flow simulations obtained with a Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) model. The model allows to simulate free-surface flow dynamics including the effect of surface tension for a wide range of wetting conditions. Several empirical and semi-analytical solutions are used to verify the model. We show that our results satisfy the empirical scaling laws for droplet velocity and critical contact angle. Due to the efficient generation of surface tension via particle-particle interaction forces the dynamic wetting of surfaces as well as the velocity enhancement of droplets on saturated surfaces can readily be obtained. Furthermore, we study the effect of surface roughness on droplet velocities. Lastly, we present flow and transport simulations in the presence of an adjacent porous matrix in order to investigate its influence on the fracture surface flow dynamics and transport across the matrix-fracture interface.