Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering

, Volume 47, Issue 5, pp 1563–1573 | Cite as

Fracture Permeability Alteration due to Chemical and Mechanical Processes: A Coupled High-Resolution Model

  • Pasha Ameli
  • Jean E. Elkhoury
  • Joseph P. Morris
  • Russell L. Detwiler
Original Paper


Reactive fluid-flow experiments in fractures subjected to normal stress suggest the potential for either increased or decreased permeability resulting from fracture-surface dissolution. We present a computational model that couples mechanical deformation and chemical alteration of fractures subjected to constant normal stress and reactive fluid flow. The model explicitly represents micro-scale roughness of the fracture surfaces and calculates elastic deformation of the rough surfaces using a semi-analytical approach that ensures the surfaces remain in static equilibrium. A depth-averaged reactive transport model calculates chemical alteration of the surfaces, which leads to alteration of the contacting fracture surfaces. The mechanical deformation and chemical alteration calculations are explicitly coupled, which is justified by the disparate timescales required for equilibration of mechanical stresses and reactive transport processes. An idealized analytical representation of dissolution from a single contacting asperity shows that under reaction-limited conditions, contacting asperities can dissolve faster than the open regions of the fracture. Computational simulations in fractures with hundreds of contacting asperities show that the transition from transport-limited conditions (low flow rates) to reaction-rate-limited conditions (high flow rates) causes a shift from monotonically increasing permeability to a more complicated process in which permeability initially decreases and then increases as contacting asperities begin to dissolve. These results are qualitatively consistent with a number of experimental observations reported in the literature and suggest the potential importance of the relative magnitude of mass transport and reaction kinetics on the evolution of fracture permeability in fractures subjected to combined normal stress and reactive fluid flow.


Fracture Deformation Dissolution Transmissivity Analytical model Coupled processes 



We acknowledge the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences Geosciences Program for financial support for this research (contract DE-FG02-09ER16003).


  1. Auradou H, Drazer G, Boschan A, Hulin J-P, Koplik J (2006) Flow channeling in a single fracture induced by shear displacement. Geothermics 35:576–588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Békri S, Thovert J-F, Adler PM (1997) Dissolution and deposition in fractures. Eng Geol 48(3–4):283–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown SR, Scholz CH (1986) Closure of rock joints. J. Geophys Res Sol Ea 91(B5):4939–4948CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chaudhuri A, Rajaram H, Viswanathan H (2008) Alteration of fractures by precipitation and dissolution in gradient reaction environments: computational results and stochastic analysis. Water Resour Res 44(10):W10410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cook N (1992) Natural joints in rock: mechanical, hydraulic and seismic behaviour and properties under normal stress. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci 29(3):198–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Debout D, Weise B, Gregory A, Edwards M (1982) Wilcox sandstone reservoirs in the deep subsurface along the texas gulf coast: their potential for production of geopressured geothermal energy. report of investigations no. 117. Technical report, Texas University, Austin. Bureau of Economic GeologyGoogle Scholar
  7. Detwiler RL (2008) Experimental observations of deformation caused by mineral dissolution in variable-aperture fractures. J Geophys Res 113(B8):B08202Google Scholar
  8. Detwiler RL, Glass RJ, Bourcier WL (2003) Experimental observations of fracture dissolution: the role of peclet number on evolving aperture variability. Geophys Res Lett 30(12)Google Scholar
  9. Detwiler RL, Rajaram H (2007) Predicting dissolution patterns in variable aperture fractures: evaluation of an enhanced depth-averaged computational model. Water Resour Res 43(4):W04403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Durham WB, Bourcier WL, Burton EA (2001) Direct observation of reactive flow in a single fracture. Water Resour Res 37(1):1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Elkhoury JE, Ameli P, Detwiler RL (2013) Dissolution and deformation in fractured carbonates caused by flow of CO2-rich brine under reservoir conditions. Int J Greenhouse Gas Control 16S1:S203–S215Google Scholar
  12. Ellis B, Peters C, Fitts J, Bromhal G, McIntyre D, Warzinski R, Rosenbaum E (2011) Deterioration of a fractured carbonate caprock exposed to CO2-acidified brine flow. Greenhouse Gases Sci Technol 1(3):248–260Google Scholar
  13. Ellis BR, Fitts JP, Bromhal GS, McIntyre DL, Tappero R, Peters CA (2013) Dissolution-driven permeability reduction of a fractured carbonate caprock. Environ Eng Sci 30(4):187–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gouze P, Noiriel C, Bruderer C, Loggia D, Leprovost R (2003) X-ray tomography characterization of fracture surfaces during dissolution. Geophys Res Lett 30(5):1267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hanna RB, Rajaram H (1998) Influence of aperture variability on dissolutional growth of fissures in karst formations. Water Resour Res 34(11):2843–2853CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Moore DE, Lockner DA, Byerlee JD (1994) Reduction of permeability in granite at elevated-temperatures. Science 265(5178):1558–1561CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Nicholl MJ, Rajaram H, Glass RJ, Detwiler R (1999) Saturated flow in a single fracture: evaluation of the reybolds equation in measured apeture fields. Water Resour Res. 35(11):3661–3373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Noiriel C, Gouze P, Made B (2013) 3D analysis of geometry and flow changes in a limestone fracture during dissolution. J Hydrol 486:211–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Polak A, Elsworth D, Liu J, Grader AS (2004) Spontaneous switching of permeability changes in a limestone fracture with net dissolution. Water Resour Res 40(W03502)Google Scholar
  20. Polak A, Elsworth D, Yasuhara H, Grader A, Halleck P (2003) Permeability reduction of a natural fracture under net dissolution by hydrothermal fluids. Geophys Res Lett 30(20)Google Scholar
  21. Pyrak-Nolte L, Morris J (2000) Single fractures under normal stress: the relation between fracture specific stiffness and fluid flow. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci 37:245–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rechard RP, Liu H-H, Tsang YW, Finsterle S (2013) Characterization of natural barrier of yucca mountain disposal system for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. Reliab Eng Syst SafeGoogle Scholar
  23. Rutter E, Elliott D (1976) The kinetics of rock deformation by pressure solution [and discussion]. Philos Trans R Soc Lond A 283(1312):203–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Shukla R, Ranjith P, Haque A, Choi X (2010) A review of studies on CO2 sequestration and caprock integrity. Fuel 89(10):2651–2664CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Szymczak P, Ladd AJC (2012) Reactive-infiltration instabilities in rocks. Fracture dissolution. J Fluid Mech 702:239–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Timoshenko S, Goodier J (1970) Theory of elasticity, 3rd edn. McGraw-HillGoogle Scholar
  27. Yasuhara H, Elsworth D, Polak A (2004) Evolution of permeability in a natural fracture: significant role of pressure solution. J Geophys Res Sol Ea 109(B3)Google Scholar
  28. Yasuhara H, Marone C, Elsworth D (2005) Fault zone restrengthening and frictional healing: the role of pressure solution. J Geophys Res Sol Ea 110(B6)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pasha Ameli
    • 1
  • Jean E. Elkhoury
    • 1
    • 2
  • Joseph P. Morris
    • 2
    • 3
  • Russell L. Detwiler
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA
  2. 2.Schlumberger-Doll Research CenterCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Lawrence Livermore National LaboratoryLivermoreUSA

Personalised recommendations