Evolution of the transport properties of fractures subject to thermally and mechanically activated mineral alteration and redistribution

I. Faoro, D. Elsworth, T. Candela

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Strong feedbacks link temperature (T), hydrologic flow (H), mechanical deformation (M), and chemical alteration (C) in fractured rock. These processes are interconnected as one process affects the initiation and progress of another. Dissolution and precipitation of minerals are affected by temperature and stress, and can result in significant changes in permeability and solute transport characteristics. Understanding these couplings is important for oil, gas, and geothermal reservoir engineering, for CO2 sequestration, and for waste disposal in underground repositories and reservoirs. To experimentally investigate the interactions between THMC processes in a naturally stressed fracture, we report on heated (25°C up to 150°C) flow-through experiments on fractured core samples of Westerly granite. These experiments examine the influence of thermally and mechanically activated dissolution of minerals on the mechanical (stress/strain) and transport (permeability) responses of fractures. The evolutions of the permeability and relative hydraulic aperture of the fracture are recorded as thermal and stress conditions' change during the experiments. Furthermore, the efflux of dissolved mineral mass is measured periodically and provides a record of the net mass removal, which is correlated with observed changes in relative hydraulic fracture aperture. During the experiments, a significant variation of the effluent fluid chemistry is observed and the fracture shows large changes in permeability to the changing conditions both in stress and in temperature. We argue that at low temperature and high stresses, mechanical crushing of the asperities and the production of gouge explain the permeability decrease although most of the permeability is recoverable as the stress is released. While at high temperature, the permeability changes are governed by mechanical deformation as well as chemical processes, in particular, we infer dissolution of minerals adjacent to the fracture and precipitation of kaolinite.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)396-407
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Evolution of the transport properties of fractures subject to thermally and mechanically activated mineral alteration and redistribution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this