Numerical simulations examining the relationship between wall-roughness and fluid flow in rock fractures

Dustin Crandall, Grant Bromhal, Zuleima T. Karpyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


Understanding how fracture wall-roughness affects fluid flow is important when modeling many subsurface transport problems. Computed tomography scanning provides a unique view of rock fractures, allowing the measurement of fracture wall-roughness, without destroying the initial rock sample. For this computational fluid dynamics study, we used several different methods to obtain three-dimensional meshes of a computed tomography scanned fracture in Berea sandstone. These volumetric meshes had different wall-roughnesses, which we characterized using the Joint Roughness Coefficient and the fractal dimension of the fracture profiles. We then related these macroscopic roughness parameters to the effective flow through the fractures, as determined from Navier-Stokes numerical models. Thus, we used our fracture meshes to develop relationships between the observed roughness properties of the fracture geometries and flow parameters that are of importance for modeling flow through fractures in field scale models. Fractures with high Joint Roughness Coefficients and fractal dimensions were shown to exhibit tortuous flow paths, be poorly characterized by the mean geometric aperture, and have a fracture transmissivity 35 times smaller than the smoother modeled fracture flows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)784-796
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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