X-ray CT and hydraulic evidence for a relationship between fracture conductivity and adjacent matrix porosity

Z. T. Karpyn, A. Alajmi, F. Radaelli, P. M. Halleck, A. S. Grader

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85 Scopus citations


Multi-phase flow in fractured rocks plays an important role in any hydrocarbon recovery process, be it for environmental remediation or natural oil and gas extraction. Fractures may form the primary production conduits, and the mass transport at the fracture interfaces with the matrix determines the effectiveness of extraction processes. This paper presents specific evidence for a relationship between fracture apertures and the porosity of the adjoining perpendicular layers in Berea sandstone samples. Measurements of fracture apertures were done with high-resolution Micro-Computed Tomography (MCT) with a voxel resolution of about 0.05 mm in three dimensions. Multi-phase fluid flow experiments were done using a medical CT scanner with a voxel resolution of about 1.00 × 0.25 × 0.25 mm. MCT evidence shows a correlation between aperture and the porosity of the intersected layers. The comparison was made by generating two-dimensional maps of matrix porosity and CT values adjacent to the fracture and of the corresponding fracture apertures. High-porosity layers are lined up with large fracture apertures. Multi-phase fluid experiments provided hydraulic evidence that the high-porosity layers have high permeability. Oil injection into a water-saturated sample was tracked by a sequence of transverse scans near the downstream tip of a fracture. The hydraulic evidence from the two-phase flow experiments also confirms high permeability in fracture strips adjacent to high-porosity and high-permeability layers. The reasons for the relationship between fracture aperture and the properties of the adjacent layers are not fully understood. Some explanation for the physical and hydraulic observations rests in the method of fracturing, fracture propagation, and the lithological characteristics of the rock.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-145
Number of pages7
JournalEngineering Geology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Feb 10 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology


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