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pure and applied geophysics

, Volume 160, Issue 5–6, pp 1023–1050 | Cite as

Scale Effects Related to Flow in Rough Fractures

  • Y. Méheust
  • J. Schmittbuhl

Abstract

— A numerical fracture flow simulation based on the lubrication approximation is used to investigate the influence of roughness on the flow inside a rough fracture, at low Reynolds number. Facing surfaces are described as self-affine topographies with identical roughness magnitude. Resolution of the Reynolds equation is achieved using two distinct numerical schemes, with consistency. Fracture closure is studied assuming perfect plastic contact between facing surfaces. Long-range correlations are shown to exist in the local aperture field due to the fracture geometry and subsequently in the local fluxes inside the fracture. Flow channeling is the result of these correlations in terms of spatial distribution of the flow, and is responsible for either flow-enhancing or flow-inhibiting behavior of the fracture. Matching between the two surfaces at scales larger than a mismatch scale is studied. The mismatch scale is the upper limit scale for the local apertures scale invariance. It appears to control flow channeling and the related dispersion of the possible behaviors over a large statistics of fractures with identical statistical features. Hydraulic anisotropy of a given fracture is investigated: the dependence of the fracture transmittivity on the pressure drop orientation is proved to be sinusoidal, with an amplitude that is controlled by the mismatch scale.

Key words: Fracture, flow, roughness, surface matching, hydraulic aperture. 

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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel, 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Y. Méheust
    • 1
  • J. Schmittbuhl
    • 1
  1. 1.École Normale Supérieure, Paris, France. E-mail: meheust@geologie.ens.frFR

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