Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2020-208
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2020-208

  08 Jan 2021

08 Jan 2021

Review status: a revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal SE and is expected to appear here in due course.

Equivalent continuum-based upscaling of flow in discrete fracture networks: The fracture-and-pipe model

Maximilian O. Kottwitz1,3, Anton A. Popov1,3, Steffen Abe2, and Boris J. P. Kaus1,3 Maximilian O. Kottwitz et al.
  • 1Johannes Gutenberg University, Institute of Geosciences, Johann-Joachim-Becher-Weg 21, 55128 Mainz, Germany
  • 2Igem, Institut for Geothermal Ressourcemanagement, Berlinstr. 107a, 55411 Bingen, Germany
  • 3Johannes Gutenberg University, M3ODEL - Mainz Institute of Multiscale Modeling, Staudingerweg 7, 55128 Mainz, Germany

Abstract. Predicting effective permeabilities of fractured rock masses is a key component of reservoir modelling. This is often realized with the discrete fracture network (DFN) method, where single-phase incompressible fluid flow is modelled in discrete representations of individual fractures in a network. Depending on the overall number of fractures, this can result in significant computational costs. Equivalent continuum models (ECM) provide an alternative approach by subdividing the fracture network into a grid of continuous medium cells, over which hydraulic properties are averaged for fluid flow simulations. While this has the advantage of lower computational costs and the possibility to include matrix properties, choosing the right cell size for discretizing the fracture network into an ECM is crucial to provide accurate flow results and conserve anisotropic flow properties. Whereas several techniques exist to map a fracture network onto a grid of continuum cells, the complexity related to flow in fracture intersections is often ignored. Here, numerical simulations of Stokes-flow in simple fracture intersections are utilized to analyze their effect on permeability. It is demonstrated that intersection lineaments oriented parallel to the principal direction of flow increase permeability in a process termed intersection flow localization (IFL). We propose a new method to generate ECM's that includes this effect with a directional pipe flow parametrization: the fracture-and-pipe model. Our approach is tested by conducting resolution tests with a massively parallelized Darcy-flow solver, capable of representing the full permeability anisotropy for individual grid cells. The results suggest that as long as the cell size is smaller than the minimal fracture length and larger than the maximal hydraulic aperture of the considered fracture network, the resulting effective permeabilities and anisotropies are resolution-independent. Within that range, ECM's are applicable to upscale flow in fracture networks, which reduces computational expenses for numerical permeability predictions of fractured rock masses. Furthermore, incorporating the off-diagonal terms of the individual permeability tensors into numerical simulations results in an improved representation of anisotropy in ECM's that was previously reserved for the DFN method.

Maximilian O. Kottwitz et al.

Status: closed

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on se-2020-208', Anonymous Referee #1, 08 Apr 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Maximilian O. Kottwitz, 08 Jun 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on se-2020-208', Anonymous Referee #2, 11 May 2021
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Maximilian O. Kottwitz, 08 Jun 2021
  • EC1: 'Comment on se-2020-208', Juliane Dannberg, 12 May 2021

Status: closed

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on se-2020-208', Anonymous Referee #1, 08 Apr 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Maximilian O. Kottwitz, 08 Jun 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on se-2020-208', Anonymous Referee #2, 11 May 2021
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Maximilian O. Kottwitz, 08 Jun 2021
  • EC1: 'Comment on se-2020-208', Juliane Dannberg, 12 May 2021

Maximilian O. Kottwitz et al.

Maximilian O. Kottwitz et al.

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Short summary
In this study, we propose a refined methodology to upscale fluid flow in fractured reservoirs. First, we conducted numerical simulations of direct fluid flow to analyze the hydraulic complexities at locations, where fractures intersect. Next, we developed a concept that integrates these effects into larger-scale continuum models of fracture networks and demonstrated its applicability. This improves the accuracy and efficiency of numerical permeability predictions in fractured reservoirs.