A numerical model simulating reactive transport and evolution of fracture permeability

Hideaki Yasuhara, Derek Elsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


A numerical model is presented to describe the evolution of fracture aperture (and related permeability) mediated by the competing chemical processes of pressure solution and free-face dissolution/precipitation; pressure (dis)solution and precipitation effect net-reduction in aperture and free-face dissolution effects net-increase. These processes are incorporated to examine coupled thermo-hydro-mechano-chemo responses during a flow-through experiment, and applied to reckon the effect of forced fluid injection within rock fractures at geothermal and petroleum sites. The model accommodates advection-dominant transport systems by employing the Lagrangian-Eulerian method. This enables changes in aperture and solute concentration within a fracture to be followed with time for arbitrary driving effective stresses, fluid and rock temperatures, and fluid flow rates. This allows a systematic evaluation of evolving linked mechanical and chemical processes. Changes in fracture aperture and solute concentration tracked within a well-constrained flow-through test completed on a natural fracture in novaculite (Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 2006, in press) are compared with the distributed parameter model. These results show relatively good agreement, excepting an enigmatic abrupt reduction in fracture aperture in the early experimental period, suggesting that other mechanisms such as mechanical creep and clogging induced by unanticipated local precipitation need to be quantified and incorporated. The model is applied to examine the evolution in fracture permeability for different inlet conditions, including localized (rather than distributed) injection. Predictions show the evolution of preferential flow paths driven by dissolution, and also define the sense of permeability evolution at field scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1039-1062
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal for Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Aug 1 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Mechanics of Materials


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