Research Project B-X1

Hybrid-dimensional discrete fracture modeling of flow, transport and deformation

Research

The presence of fractures may substantially alter the hydraulic behavior of porous media, which, due to the fact that almost all rocks exhibit fractures, manifests their importance particularly in geotechnical engineering applications. For instance, oil recovery applications or environmental issues as e.g. the integrity of radioactive waste disposal sites are strongly influenced by fractures, while geothermal energy production or unconventional gas production techniques even rely on them. Many of these applications involve complex physics, as not only two-phase flow processes but also non-isothermal effects often play an important role. For example, enhanced geothermal systems using supercritical CO2 as working fluid implicate two-phase flow regimes driven by both the injection as well as buoyancy forces, together with temperature changes caused by heat exchange and by the compression and expansion of CO2.

However, the numerical simulation of fractured porous media is very challenging due to the complex geometries involved in arbitrary networks of fractures, and the typically very small apertures in comparison with the considered spatial scales. These small apertures however often make it possible to approximate the fractures by lower dimensional geometries, which can substantially reduce the computational cost. Following this idea, this project aims at developing finite-volume based hybrid-dimensional models for single- and multi-phase flow through fractured porous media taking into account mechanical deformations.

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