Discrete fracture modeling of hydro-mechanical damage processes in geological systems

Friday, 19 December 2014
Kunhwi Kim, Jonny Rutqvist, James E. Houseworth and Jens T Birkholzer, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, United States
This study presents a modeling approach for investigating coupled thermal-hydrological-mechanical (THM) behavior, including fracture development, within geomaterials and structures. In the model, the coupling procedure consists of an effective linkage between two codes: TOUGH2, a simulator of subsurface multiphase flow and mass transport based on the finite volume approach; and an implementation of the rigid-body-spring network (RBSN) method, a discrete (lattice) modeling approach to represent geomechanical behavior. One main advantage of linking these two codes is that they share the same geometrical mesh structure based on the Voronoi discretization, so that a straightforward representation of discrete fracture networks (DFN) is available for fluid flow processes. The capabilities of the TOUGH-RBSN model are demonstrated through simulations of hydraulic fracturing, where fluid pressure-induced fracturing and damage-assisted flow are well represented.

The TOUGH-RBSN modeling methodology has been extended to enable treatment of geomaterials exhibiting anisotropic characteristics. In the RBSN approach, elastic spring coefficients and strength parameters are systematically formulated based on the principal bedding direction, which facilitate a straightforward representation of anisotropy. Uniaxial compression tests are simulated for a transversely isotropic material to validate the new modeling scheme. The model is also used to simulate excavation fracture damage for the HG-A microtunnel in the Opalinus Clay rock, located at the Mont Terri underground research laboratory (URL) near Saint-Ursanne, Switzerland. The Opalinus Clay has transversely isotropic material properties caused by natural features such as bedding, foliation, and flow structures. Preferential fracturing and tunnel breakouts were observed following excavation, which are believed to be strongly influenced by the mechanical anisotropy of the rock material. The simulation results are qualitatively representative of the nonuniform fracture patterns observed in the HG-A microtunnel.