Coupled flow network and discrete element modeling of injection-induced crack propagation and coalescence in brittle rock
We present a numerical analysis on injection-induced crack propagation and coalescence in brittle rock. The DEM network coupling model in PFC is modified to capture the evolution of fracture geometry. An improved fluid flow model for fractured porous media is proposed and coupled with a bond-based DEM model to simulate the interactions among cracks induced by injecting fluid in two nearby flaws at identical injection rates. The material parameters are calibrated based on the macro-properties of Lac du Bonnet granite and KGD solution. A grain-based model, which generates larger grains from assembles of particles bonded together, is calibrated to identify the microscopic mechanical and hydraulic parameters of Lac du Bonnet granite such that the DEM model yields a ratio between the compressive and tensile strength consistent with experiments. The simulations of fluid injection reveal that the initial flaw direction plays a crucial role in crack interaction and coalescence pattern. When two initial flaws are aligned, cracks generally propagate faster. Some geometrical measures from graph theory are used to analyze the geometry and connectivity of the crack network. The results reveal that initial flaws in the same direction may lead to a well-connected crack network with higher global efficiency.
Keywords: Brittle rock, Crack coalescence, Discrete element method, Flow network, Fluid-driven fracture