Transport in Porous Media

, Volume 84, Issue 2, pp 493-510

First online:

Computational Modeling of Fluid Flow through a Fracture in Permeable Rock

  • Dustin CrandallAffiliated withMechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Department, Clarkson UniversityNational Energy Technology Laboratory, United States Department of Energy Email author 
  • , Goodarz AhmadiAffiliated withMechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Department, Clarkson University
  • , Duane H. SmithAffiliated withNational Energy Technology Laboratory, United States Department of Energy

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Laminar, single-phase, finite-volume solutions to the Navier–Stokes equations of fluid flow through a fracture within permeable media have been obtained. The fracture geometry was acquired from computed tomography scans of a fracture in Berea sandstone, capturing the small-scale roughness of these natural fluid conduits. First, the roughness of the two-dimensional fracture profiles was analyzed and shown to be similar to Brownian fractal structures. The permeability and tortuosity of each fracture profile was determined from simulations of fluid flow through these geometries with impermeable fracture walls. A surrounding permeable medium, assumed to obey Darcy’s Law with permeabilities from 0.2 to 2,000 millidarcies, was then included in the analysis. A series of simulations for flows in fractured permeable rocks was performed, and the results were used to develop a relationship between the flow rate and pressure loss for fractures in porous rocks. The resulting friction-factor, which accounts for the fracture geometric properties, is similar to the cubic law; it has the potential to be of use in discrete fracture reservoir-scale simulations of fluid flow through highly fractured geologic formations with appreciable matrix permeability. The observed fluid flow from the surrounding permeable medium to the fracture was significant when the resistance within the fracture and the medium were of the same order. An increase in the volumetric flow rate within the fracture profile increased by more than 5% was observed for flows within high permeability-fractured porous media.


Fractured porous media Single-phase flow Friction-factor Cubic law Navier–Stokes CFD