Aperture has a controlling impact on porosity and permeability and is a source of uncertainty in modeling of naturally fractured reservoirs. This uncertainty results from difficulties in accurately quantifying aperture in the subsurface and from a limited fundamental understanding of the mechanical and diagenetic processes that control aperture. In the absence of cement bridges and high pore pressure, fractures in the subsurface are generally considered to be closed. However, experimental work, outcrop analyses and subsurface data show that some fractures remain open, and that aperture varies even along a single fracture. However, most fracture flow models consider constant apertures for fractures. We create a stress-dependent heterogeneous aperture by combining Finite Element modeling of discrete fracture networks with an empirical aperture model. Using a modeling approach that considers fractures explicitly, we quantify equivalent permeability, i.e. combined matrix and stress-dependent fracture flow. Fracture networks extracted from a large outcropping pavement form the basis of these models. The results show that the angle between fracture strike and σ1 has a controlling impact on aperture and permeability, where hydraulic opening is maximum for an angle of 15°. At this angle, the fracture experiences a minor amount of shear displacement that allows the fracture to remain open even when fluid pressure is lower than the local normal stress. Averaging the heterogeneous aperture to scale up permeability probably results in an underestimation of flow, indicating the need to incorporate full aperture distributions rather than simplified aperture models in reservoir-scale flow models.
- Discrete fracture networks
- Equivalent permeability
- Fracture geometry
- Naturally fractured reservoirs