Some aspects of unsaturated flow in jointed rock
The applicability of Darcy’s Law to two-phase flow has been discussed. Specialised triaxial equipment has been employed to separately inject two pore fluid components (air and water) into fractured rock specimens, so that two-phase flow behaviour can be studied at high axial and confining stresses. Improvements to recently developed two-phase high-pressure triaxial apparatus have enabled the authors to continue their study of air–water (i.e. unsaturated) flow in intact and fractured rock specimens under a wide range of stress conditions, similar to those encountered in underground mining operations. In this paper, a simplified stratified twophase flow model is also presented that satisfactorily predicts flow behaviour in an inclined rock fracture over a range of linear laminar flow for particular capillary pressure relationships. The mathematical model is based upon the principles of conservation of mass and momentum, and relates the fracture aperture (et) to phase permeability (ki) using Poiseuille’s law and the proposed ‘phase height’, ht(t), for water and air phases. The experimental approach used to verify the model predictions is described and the predicted results compared with the measurements. The experimental data confirmed the relationship between relative permeability and flow rate, with respect to two-phase flow conditions.