Permeability Evolution in Natural Fractures Subject to Cyclic Loading and Gouge Formation

Daniel Vogler, Florian Amann, Peter Bayer, Derek Elsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Scopus citations

Abstract

Increasing fracture aperture by lowering effective normal stress and by inducing dilatant shearing and thermo-elastic effects is essential for transmissivity increase in enhanced geothermal systems. This study investigates transmissivity evolution for fluid flow through natural fractures in granodiorite at the laboratory scale. Processes that influence transmissivity are changing normal loads, surface deformation, the formation of gouge and fracture offset. Normal loads were varied in cycles between 1 and 68 MPa and cause transmissivity changes of up to three orders of magnitude. Similarly, small offsets of fracture surfaces of the order of millimeters induced changes in transmissivity of up to three orders of magnitude. During normal load cycling, the fractures experienced significant surface deformation, which did not lead to increased matedness for most experiments, especially for offset fractures. The resulting gouge material production may have caused clogging of the main fluid flow channels with progressing loading cycles, resulting in reductions of transmissivity by up to one order of magnitude. During one load cycle, from low to high normal loads, the majority of tests show hysteretic behavior of the transmissivity. This effect is stronger for early load cycles, most likely when surface deformation occurs, and becomes less pronounced in later cycles when asperities with low asperity strength failed. The influence of repeated load cycling on surface deformation is investigated by scanning the specimen surfaces before and after testing. This allows one to study asperity height distribution and surface deformation by evaluating the changes of the standard deviation of the height, distribution of asperities and matedness of the fractures. Surface roughness, as expressed by the standard deviation of the asperity height distribution, increased during testing. Specimen surfaces that were tested in a mated configuration were better mated after testing, than specimens tested in shear offset configuration. The fracture surface deformation of specimen surfaces that were tested in an offset configuration was dominated by the breaking of individual asperities and grains, which did not result in better mated surfaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3463-3479
Number of pages17
JournalRock Mechanics and Rock Engineering
Volume49
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology

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