Roles of coal heterogeneity on evolution of coal permeability under unconstrained boundary conditions

Zhongwei Chen, Jishan Liu, Derek Elsworth, Zhejun Pan, Shugang Wang

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52 Scopus citations


Coal permeability models based on constrained conditions such as constant volume theory can successfully match unconstrained experimental data and field observations. However, these models have a boundary mismatch because the boundary of permeability models is constrained while experiment boundary is free displacement or unconstrained. What the mechanism is to require such a boundary mismatch has not been well understood. In this study, a full coupled approach was developed to explicitly simulate the interactions of coal matrixes and fractures. In this model, a matrix-fracture model is numerically investigated after incorporating heterogeneous distributions of Young's modulus, Langmuir strain constant in the vicinity of the fracture. The impact of these local heterogeneities of coal mechanical and swelling properties on the permeability evolution is explored. The transient permeability evolution during gas swelling process is investigated and the difference between the final equilibrium permeability and transient permeability is compared. With the heterogeneity assumption, a net reduction of coal permeability is achieved from the initial no-swelling state to the final equilibrium state. This net reduction of coal permeability increases with the fracture (injection) pressure and is in good agreement with laboratorial data under the unconstrained swelling conditions. Coal local heterogeneity in vicinity of fracture can therefore be the mechanism of the above mismatch.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-52
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Natural Gas Science and Engineering
StatePublished - Nov 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Fuel Technology
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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