Elastic Properties of 3D-Printed Rock Models: Dry and Saturated Cracks

Monday, 15 December 2014
Long Huang, Robert Stewart and Nikolay Dyaur, University of Houston, Houston, TX, United States
Many regions of subsurface interest are, or will be, fractured. In addition, these zones many be subject to varying saturations and stresses. New 3D printing techniques using different materials and structures, provide opportunities to understand porous or fractured materials and fluid effects on their elastic properties. We use a 3D printer (Stratasys Dimension SST 768) to print two rock models: a solid octahedral prism and a porous cube with thousands of penny-shaped cracks. The printing material is ABS thermal plastic with a density of 1.04 g/cm3. After printing, we measure the elastic properties of the models, both dry and 100% saturated with water. Both models exhibit VTI (Vertical Transverse Isotropic) symmetry due to laying (about 0.25 mm thick) of the printing process. The prism has a density of 0.96 g/cm3 before saturation and 1.00 g/cm3 after saturation. Its effective porosity is calculated to be 4 %. We use ultrasonic transducers (500 kHz) to measure both P- and shear-wave velocities, and the raw material has a P-wave velocity of 1.89 km/s and a shear-wave velocity of 0.91 km/s. P-wave velocity in the un-saturated prism increases from 1.81 km/s to 1.84 km/s after saturation in the direction parallel to layering and from 1.73 km/s to 1.81 km/s in the direction perpendicular to layering. The fast shear-wave velocity decreases from 0.88 km/s to 0.87 km/s and the slow shear-wave velocity decreases from 0.82 km/s to 0.81 km/s. The cube, printed with penny-shaped cracks, gives a density of 0.79 g/cm3 and a porosity of 24 %. We measure its P-wave velocity as 1.78 km/s and 1.68 km/s in the direction parallel and perpendicular to the layering, respectively. Its fast shear-wave velocity is 0.88 km/s and slow shear-wave velocity is 0.70 km/s. The penny-shaped cracks have significant influence on the elastic properties of the 3D-printed rock models. To better understand and explain the fluid effects on the elastic properties of the models, we apply the extended anisotropic Gassmann’s equations to predict the effects of saturation changes. We find that the predictions match observations from the experimental data within 1 % difference.