Simulation of hydro-mechanically coupled processes in rough rock fractures using an immersed boundary method and variational transfer operators

  • Cyrill von PlantaEmail author
  • Daniel Vogler
  • Xiaoqing Chen
  • Maria G. C. Nestola
  • Martin O. Saar
  • Rolf Krause
Original Paper


Hydro-mechanical processes in rough fractures are highly non-linear and govern productivity and associated risks in a wide range of reservoir engineering problems. To enable high-resolution simulations of hydro-mechanical processes in fractures, we present an adaptation of an immersed boundary method to compute fluid flow between rough fracture surfaces. The solid domain is immersed into the fluid domain and both domains are coupled by means of variational volumetric transfer operators. The transfer operators implicitly resolve the boundary between the solid and the fluid, which simplifies the setup of fracture simulations with complex surfaces. It is possible to choose different formulations and discretization schemes for each subproblem and it is not necessary to remesh the fluid grid. We use benchmark problems and real fracture geometries to demonstrate the following capabilities of the presented approach: (1) resolving the boundary of the rough fracture surface in the fluid; (2) capturing fluid flow field changes in a fracture which closes under increasing normal load; and (3) simulating the opening of a fracture due to increased fluid pressure.


Fluid flow Fracture mechanics Non-matching meshes Pseudo-L2-projection Immersed boundary Hydro-mechanical coupling Geothermal energy 


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The Werner Siemens-Stiftung (Foundation) is thanked for its support of the Geothermal Energy and Geofluids group.

Funding information

We received funding from the Swiss Competence Center for Energy Research - Supply of Electricity (SCCER-SoE), by Innosuisse - Swiss Innovation Agency under Grant Number 28305.1 and the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) under Grant Number SI/500676-02.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Computational ScienceUniversità della Svizzera italianaLuganoSwitzerland
  2. 2.ETH ZurichInstitute of GeophysicsZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.ETH ZurichInstitute of Process EngineeringZurichSwitzerland
  4. 4.Center for Computational Medicine and Cardiology CCMCLuganoSwitzerland

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