A three-dimensional coupled thermo-hydro-mechanical model for deformable fractured geothermal systems

Saeed Salimzadeh, Adriana Paluszny, Hamidreza M. Nick, Robert W. Zimmerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


A fully coupled thermal-hydraulic-mechanical (THM) finite element model is presented for fractured geothermal reservoirs. Fractures are modelled as surface discontinuities within a three-dimensional matrix. Non-isothermal flow through the rock matrix and fractures are defined and coupled to a mechanical deformation model. A robust contact model is utilised to resolve the contact tractions between opposing fracture surfaces under THM loadings. A numerical model has been developed using the standard Galerkin method. Quadratic tetrahedral and triangular elements are used for spatial discretisation. The model has been validated against several analytical solutions, and applied to study the effects of the deformable fractures on the injection of cold water in fractured geothermal systems. Results show that the creation of flow channelling due to the thermal volumetric contraction of the rock matrix is very likely. The fluid exchanges heat with the rock matrix, which results in cooling down of the matrix, and subsequent volumetric deformation. The cooling down of the rock matrix around a fracture reduces the contact stress on the fracture surfaces, and increases the fracture aperture. Stress redistribution reduces the aperture, as the area with lower contact stress on the fracture expands. Stress redistribution reduces the likelihood of fracture propagation under pure opening mode, while the expansion of the area with lower contact stress may increase the likelihood of shear fracturing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-224
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Contact model
  • Coupled THM processes
  • Enhanced geothermal systems
  • Flow channelling
  • Fractured geothermal reservoir


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