Laboratory observations of permeability enhancement by fluid pressure oscillation of in situ fractured rock

Jean E. Elkhoury, André Niemeijer, Emily E. Brodsky, Chris Marone

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160 Scopus citations


We report on laboratory experiments designed to investigate the influence of pore pressure oscillations on the effective permeability of fractured rock. Berea sandstone samples were fractured in situ under triaxial stresses of tens of megapascals, and deionized water was forced through the incipient fracture under conditions of steady and oscillating pore pressure. We find that short-term pore pressure oscillations induce long-term transient increases in effective permeability of the fractured samples. The magnitude of the effective permeability enhancements scales with the amplitude of pore pressure oscillations, and changes persist well after the stress perturbation. The maximum value of effective permeability enhancement is 5 × 10 -16 m2 with a background permeability of 1 × 10 -15 m2; that is, the maximum enhanced permeability is 1.5 × 10-15 m2. We evaluate poroelastic effects and show that hydraulic storage release does not explain our observations. Effective permeability recovery following dynamic oscillations occurs as the inverse square root of time. The recovery indicates that a reversible mechanism, such as clogging/unclogging of fractures, as opposed to an irreversible one, like microfracturing, is responsible for the transient effective permeability increase. Our work suggests the feasibility of dynamically controlling the effective permeability of fractured systems. The result has consequences for models of earthquake triggering and permeability enhancement in fault zones due to dynamic shaking from near and distant earthquakes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberB02311
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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