Microcrack-based coupled damage and flow modeling of fracturing evolution in permeable brittle rocks

Y. L. Lu, D. Elsworth, L. G. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Microcracks in brittle rocks affect not only the local mechanical properties, but also the poroelastic behavior and permeability. A continuum coupled hydro-mechanical modeling approach is presented using a two-scale conceptual model representing realistic rock material containing micro-fractures. This approach combines a microcrack-based continuous damage model within generalized Biot poroelasticity, in which the tensors of macroscopic elastic stiffness, Biot effective stress coefficient and of overall permeability are directly related to microcrack growth. Heterogeneity in both mechanical and hydraulic properties evolves from an initially random distribution of damage to produce localized failure and fluid transmission. A significant advantage of the approach is the ability to accurately predict the evolution of realistic fracturing and associated fluid flow in permeable rocks where pre-existing fractures exert significant control. The model is validated for biaxial failure of rock in compression and replicates typical pre- and post-peak strength metrics of stress drop, AE event counts, permeability evolution and failure modes. The model is applied to the simulation of hydraulic fracturing in permeable rocks to examine the effects of heterogeneities, permeability and borehole pressurization rate on the initiation of fracturing. The results indicate that more homogenous rocks require higher hydraulic pressure to initiate fracturing and breakdown. Moreover, both the fracturing initiation pressure and breakdown pressure decrease with permeability but increase with borehole pressurization rate, and the upper and lower limit of the initiation pressure are seen to be given by the impermeable (Hubbert-Willis) and permeable (Haimson-Fairhurst) borehole wall solutions, respectively. The numerical results are shown to be in good agreement with the experimental observations and theoretical results. This coupled damage and flow modeling approach provides an alternative way to solve a variety of complicated hydro-mechanical problems in practical rock engineering with the process coupling strictly enforced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-244
Number of pages19
JournalComputers and Geotechnics
StatePublished - Apr 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Computer Science Applications


Dive into the research topics of 'Microcrack-based coupled damage and flow modeling of fracturing evolution in permeable brittle rocks'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this