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Open Access Publications from the University of California

TOUGH-RFPA: Coupled thermal-hydraulic-mechanical Rock Failure Process Analysis with application to deep geothermal wells


This paper presents a coupled thermal-hydraulic-mechanical (THM) model for simulating failure processes in geological media. The coupling between stress/strain and heat transfer describing how thermal expansion affects stress is based on the theory of thermo-elasticity. Additionally, the coupling between stress/strain and fluid flow describing how pore-pressure affects stress is governed by Biot's consolidation theory. Stress/strain-dependent porosity/permeability/capillary-pressure defines the influence of stress on fluid flow and thermal fields. The THM model is implemented in the solver module that links the multiphase, multicomponent fluid flow simulator TOUGH2 with the geomechanical simulator RFPA (Rock Failure Process Analysis), which is based on the concept that heterogeneity leads to non-linearity and progressive failure behavior. Capability of TOUGH-RFPA simulator was verified by two benchmark problems related to hydraulic-mechanical and thermal-mechanical response in a hollow cylinder. Then the applicability of TOUGH-RFPA was demonstrated for modeling cooling-induced damage around a very deep geothermal well with mesoscopic heterogeneous properties, which showed complex damage evolution and fracturing during well cooling and fluid pressurization.

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