Estimating Flow Heterogeneity In Natural Fracture Systems

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Journal Article: Estimating Flow Heterogeneity In Natural Fracture Systems

Examples of small to medium scale fault systems have been mapped in Jurassic sedimentary rocks in north Somerset, England. These examples include contractional and dilational strike-slip oversteps as well as normal faults. These maps form the basis of calculations performed to investigate heterogeneity in natural fracture systems with the aim of predicting fluid flow localisation in different fault styles. As there is no way to measure fracture aperture directly, we use vein thickness to represent an integrated flow path or 'palaeo-aperture' from which we derive a representation of the flow distribution. Three different methods are used to estimate flow heterogeneity based on: (1) fracture density (the ratio of fracture length to area), (2) fracture aperture (fracture porosity) and (3) hydraulic conductance (fracture permeability normalised to the pressure gradient and fluid properties). Our results show that fracture density and hydraulic conductance are poorly correlated and that fracture density does not fully represent the natural heterogeneity of fracture systems. Fracture aperture and hydraulic conductance indicate stronger degrees of flow localisation. Different types of structures also seem to display characteristic and predictable patterns of heterogeneity. Normal fault systems show the highest magnitude of localisation along the faults rather than in the relay ramps, while contractional and dilational strike-slip systems show very strong localisation in the faults and oversteps, respectively. In all cases the amount of damage in the oversteps can modify such patterns of heterogeneity.

Robert J. Leckenby, David J. Sanderson and Lidia Lonergan

Published Journal 
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 2005

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Robert J. Leckenby,David J. Sanderson,Lidia Lonergan. 2005. Estimating Flow Heterogeneity In Natural Fracture Systems. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. (!) .