Spontaneous switching between permeability enhancement and degradation in fractures in carbonate: Lumped parameter representation of mechanically- and chemically-mediated dissolution

Hide Yasuhara, Derek Elsworth, Amir Polak, Jishan Liu, Avrami Grader, Phillip Halleck

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Principal mechanical and chemical processes contributing to the observed spontaneous switching from net decrease in permeability to net increase in a fracture in carbonate are examined. The evolution of permeability, and related fracture aperture, is represented through a lumped parameter model. The significant processes of pressure solution beneath bridging asperities, transport of dissolved mass to the fracture void, and subsequent precipitation or dissolution within the fracture void enable the principal characteristics of observed behavior to be followed. The evolution of dissolved mass concentration in the pore fluid is followed for arbitrary applied stress, temperature, and pH conditions, with appropriate feedback to the evolution of fracture permeability. Comparisons with experimental measurements in limestone (Polak et al., 2004, Water Resour. Res. Vol. 40, W03502, doi: 10.1029/2003GL017575) show satisfactory agreement for the evolution of fracture aperture and to a lesser degree in calcium concentrations in the effluent pore fluid. Importantly, the spontaneous switching in permeability change, from aperture reducing to aperture increasing, with no change in environmental conditions, is replicated without the need for an ad hoc trigger. Although this switch is accurately replicated, the lumped parameter model is incapable of replicating the rapid observed growth in permeability that directly follows. This inability results from the assumed form of the lumped asperity model, that is incapable of representing the spatially distributed change in aperture that is seen to occur within the fracture. Despite this inconsistency, the model is shown capable of representing the principal behaviors evident in the response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-409
Number of pages25
JournalTransport in Porous Media
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • Chemical Engineering(all)

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