Friction factor of water flow through rough rock fractures



Publication Details

Zhang, Z. & Nemcik, J. (2013). Friction factor of water flow through rough rock fractures. Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering, 46 (5), 1125-1134.


Fluid flow through rock joints occurs in many rock engineering applications. As the fluid flows through rough-walled rock fractures, pressure head loss occurs due to friction drag of the wall and local aperture changes. In this study, the friction factor was experimentally investigated by performing flow tests through sandstone fractures with joint roughness coefficient ranging from 5.5 to 15.4 under changing normal stress from 0.5 to 3.5 MPa. According to the experimental results, the friction factor was formulated as a function of two-independent variables-Reynolds number and relative roughness. Relative roughness is defined as the ratio of maximum asperity height to equivalent hydraulic aperture. The experimental results show that the proposed predictor of the friction factor fits the data with a coefficient of determination R 2 > 0.93. Sensitivity analyses indicate that in general, the proposed friction factor increases with the relative roughness of confined fractures. The large difference of friction factor induced by relative roughness occurs when the Reynolds number is lower than unity, especially for Re < 0.2. For Reynolds numbers greater than unity, the difference of friction factor induced by relative roughness is smaller. Inclusion of joint roughness in calculating the friction resistance to fluid flow in rough rock joints and the influence of normal stress to the joints is a major step towards more accurate predictions for fluid flow in underground joint networks. This study provides a significant improvement in fundamental understanding of fluid flow in the jointed strata. © 2012 Springer-Verlag Wien.

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