Micro- and macro-behaviour of fluid flow through rock fractures: an experimental study
Microscopic and macroscopic behaviour of fluid flow through rough-walled rock fractures was experimentally investigated. Advanced microfluidic technology was introduced to examine the microscopic viscous and inertial effects of water flow through rock fractures in the vicinity of voids under different flow velocities, while the macroscopic behaviour of fracture flow was investigated by carrying out triaxial flow tests through fractured sandstone under confining stresses ranging from 0.5 to 3.0 MPa. The flow tests show that the microscopic inertial forces increase with the flow velocity with significant effects on the local flow pattern near the voids. With the increase in flow velocity, the deviation of the flow trajectories is reduced but small eddies appear inside the cavities. The results of the macroscopic flow tests show that the linear Darcy flow occurs for mated rock fractures due to small aperture, while a nonlinear deviation of the flow occurs at relatively high Reynolds numbers in non-mated rock fracture (Re > 32). The microscopic experiments suggest that the pressure loss consumed by the eddies inside cavities could contribute to the nonlinear fluid flow behaviour through rock joints. It is found that such nonlinear flow behaviour is best matched with the quadratic-termed Forchheimer equation.