An integrated workflow for stress and flow modelling using outcrop-derived discrete fracture networks

K. Bisdom*, H. M. Nick, G. Bertotti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)
88 Downloads (Pure)


Fluid flow in naturally fractured reservoirs is often controlled by subseismic-scale fracture networks. Although the fracture network can be partly sampled in the direct vicinity of wells, the inter-well scale network is poorly constrained in fractured reservoir models. Outcrop analogues can provide data for populating domains of the reservoir model where no direct measurements are available. However, extracting relevant statistics from large outcrops representative of inter-well scale fracture networks remains challenging. Recent advances in outcrop imaging provide high-resolution datasets that can cover areas of several hundred by several hundred meters, i.e. the domain between adjacent wells, but even then, data from the high-resolution models is often upscaled to reservoir flow grids, resulting in loss of accuracy. We present a workflow that uses photorealistic georeferenced outcrop models to construct geomechanical and fluid flow models containing thousands of discrete fractures covering sufficiently large areas, that does not require upscaling to model permeability. This workflow seamlessly integrates geomechanical Finite Element models with flow models that take into account stress-sensitive fracture permeability and matrix flow to determine the full permeability tensor. The applicability of this workflow is illustrated using an outcropping carbonate pavement in the Potiguar basin in Brazil, from which 1082 fractures are digitised. The permeability tensor for a range of matrix permeabilities shows that conventional upscaling to effective grid properties leads to potential underestimation of the true permeability and the orientation of principal permeabilities. The presented workflow yields the full permeability tensor model of discrete fracture networks with stress-induced apertures, instead of relying on effective properties as most conventional flow models do.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-35
Number of pages15
JournalComputers & Geosciences: an international journal
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • Aperture
  • Brazil
  • Discrete fracture matrix
  • Fracture mechanics
  • Fracture networks
  • Fracture permeability
  • Outcrop analogue modelling
  • Permeability tensor


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