Experimental and Numerical Investigation of the Flow Behaviour of Fractured Granite under Extreme Temperature and Pressure Conditions

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Sustainability (Switzerland)


As a result of negligible connected porosity—and thus, minimal matrix permeability—the fluid-transport characteristics of crystalline rocks are strongly influenced by the fractures at all scales. Understanding the flow behaviour of fractured rock under extreme stress and temperature conditions is essential for safe and effective deep geo-engineering applications, such as deep geothermal recovery, geological nuclear waste disposal, oil and gas extraction, geological storage and deep mining operations. Therefore, this study aims to investigate the flow characteristics of mechanically fractured Australian Strathbogie granite under a wide range of stress (confining pressures 1–80 MPa) and temperature conditions (20 °C to 350 °C). The study utilised a sophisticated high-temperature, high-pressure tri-axial setup capable of simulating extreme geological conditions, followed by a numerical simulation. According to the experimental results, a linear increment in the steady-state flow rate was observed, with increased injection pressure for the experimental conditions considered. Therefore, linear laminar Darcy flow was considered, and the fracture permeability was calculated using the cubic law. It was found that stress and temperature strongly depend on the flow of fluid through fractures. The steady-state flow rate decreased exponentially with the increase in normal stress, showcasing fracture shrinkage with an increment in effective stress. With regard to permeability through the fractures, increasing temperature was found to cause an initial reduction in fracture permeability due to an increased interlock effect (induced by thermal overclosure), followed by increments because of the thermally induced damage. Furthermore, the increasing temperature caused significant non-linear increments in the fluid flow rates due to the associated viscosity and density reduction in water. Considering the laboratory-scale flow-through exercises, a fully coupled numerical model that can predict hydro–thermo–mechanical variations in the reservoir rocks was developed using the COMSOL Multiphysics simulator. The developed model was calibrated, utilising the temperature- and pressure-dependent properties of granite rocks and fluid (water); was validated against the experimental results; and was used to predict the permeability, pressure development and strain of rock samples under extreme conditions, which were difficult to achieve in the laboratory.

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