Method for Generating a Discrete Fracture Network from Microseismic Data and its Application in Analyzing the Permeability of Rock Masses: a Case Study

  • Yong Zhao
  • Tianhong YangEmail author
  • Penghai Zhang
  • Haiyan Xu
  • Jingren Zhou
  • Qinglei Yu
Original Paper


The deformation and failure process of rock masses is accompanied by the initiation, propagation and connection of fractures. The behaviors of fractures under engineering disturbance can be effectively determined by microseismic (MS) monitoring, and such information is essential for the stability analysis of rock masses. Based on moment tensor theory, the geometric properties of focal planes and the failure mechanisms of the seismic source can be determined, and this study proposes criteria for extracting the reasonable fracture from focal planes associated with different failure mechanisms and provides a detailed example. The fracture identified by the proposed criteria is called MS-derived fracture, and a formula describing the aperture is derived from the moment tensor theory and the motion characteristics of the MS-derived fractures associated with different failure mechanisms. This work chose the Shirengou Iron Mine as a case and selected an area exhibiting seepage and rock mass failure as the study area. Based on a three-dimensional noncontact discontinuity scan, a natural discrete fracture network (DFN) was generated. With the help of the proposed fracture generation method, a new DFN based on MS data was generated and is referred to as the MS-derived DFN. With the aid of Oda’s theory, the changes in the permeability value, principal direction and anisotropy degree in the study area were analyzed based on the MS-derived DFN, and the seepage channels in the study area were also determined. Therefore, the research methods in this paper could be used to better understand the changes in the permeability of rock masses based on MS data.


Discrete fracture network Focal mechanism Fracture seepage Permeability 

List of Symbols


Moment tensor


Isotropic component of the moment tensor


Pure double couple component of the moment tensor


Compensated linear vector dipole component of the moment tensor

\({M_{{\text{ISO}}}}\), \({M_{{\text{ISO}}}}\), \({M_{{\text{CLVD}}}}\)

The ISO, DC and CLVD coordinates in the 3D source-type space

\({C_{{\text{ISO}}}}\), \({C_{{\text{DC}}}}\), \({C_{{\text{CLVD}}}}\)

The proportion of ISO, DC and CLVD

\(m_{i}^{ * }\)

The eigenvalues of the deviatoric moment tensor

M1, M2, M3

Three eigenvalues of the moment tensor

\({{\mathbf{{\rm E}}}_{{\text{ISO}}}}\), \({{\mathbf{{\rm E}}}_{{\text{DC}}}}\), \({{\mathbf{{\rm E}}}_{{\text{CLVD}}}}\)

The base tensor of ISO, DC and CLVD


A constant relating to a source model


Corner frequency

\({\beta _0}\)

S-wave velocity


Source radius

\(\Delta V\)

Fracture volume change


Matrix of displacements


Green’s function

\({{\mathbf{e}}_1}\), \({{\mathbf{e}}_2}\), \({{\mathbf{e}}_3}\)

Eigenvectors of the moment tensor

\({\mathbf{n}}\), \({\mathbf{v}}\)

The normal and motion vector of the fracture

\({n_i}\), \({n_j}\)

Components of \({\mathbf{n}}\) on the coordinate axis


Length of the fracture


Number of fractures per unit volume

\({\delta _{ij}}\)

Kronecker delta


Rotation angle of maximum principal permeability

λ, µ

Lame constants

\({t_0}\), \(\Delta t\)

Initial aperture of the pre-existing fracture, aperture change of MS-derived fracture

\(\lambda ^{\prime}\)

Nondimensional coefficient describing the connectivity of fractures


Displacement on the motion direction of the MS-derived fracture


Surface area of the MS-derived fracture


Angle between \({\mathbf{n}}\) and \({\mathbf{v}}\)


Elastic modulus


Poisson’s ratio


Fracture aperture


Shear stress

\({\sigma _n}\)

Normal stress

\({\sigma _1}\), \({\sigma _2}\), \({\sigma _3}\)

Maximum, intermediate and minimum principal stresses

l, m, n

Cosines of the normal direction of the fracture

\({T_s}\), \({T_t}\)

Shear failure tendency and tensile failure tendency

\({\mu _x}\), \({\sigma _x}\)

The mean and the standard deviation

\({t_m}\), \({r_m}\)

Maximum aperture and maximum length of the fractures


Probability density function of \({\mathbf{n}}\), r and t


Second-rank fracture tensor


Whole solid angle

\({P_{{\text{natural}}}}\), \({P_{{\text{MS}}}}\), \({P_{{\text{total}}}}\)

Fracture tensor of the natural fractures, MS-derived fractures, and the total fractures

\({K_1}\), \({K_2}\), \({K_3}\)

Three eigenvalues of the permeability tensor

\(\bar {K}\)

Geometric average of the permeability


Anisotropy degree



This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFC0801602 and 2017YFC1503100), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (51574060 and 51604062) and the China Scholarship Council (201706080101). We thank the anonymous reviewer for constructive comments that helped improve this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yong Zhao
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tianhong Yang
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Penghai Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Haiyan Xu
    • 3
  • Jingren Zhou
    • 4
  • Qinglei Yu
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Ministry of Education on Safe Mining of Deep Metal MinesNortheastern UniversityShenyangChina
  2. 2.Center for Rock Instability and Seismicity ResearchNortheastern UniversityShenyangChina
  3. 3.College of Information Science and EngineeringNortheastern UniversityShenyangChina
  4. 4.College of Water Resources and HydropowerSichuan UniversityChengduChina

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