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Hydro-mechanical model for wetting/drying and fracture development in geomaterials


This paper presents a modeling approach for studying hydro-mechanical coupled processes, including fracture development, within geological formations. This is accomplished through the novel linking of two codes: TOUGH2, which is a widely used simulator of subsurface multiphase flow based on the finite volume method; and an implementation of the Rigid-Body-Spring Network (RBSN) method, which provides a discrete (lattice) representation of material elasticity and fracture development. The modeling approach is facilitated by a Voronoi-based discretization technique, capable of representing discrete fracture networks. The TOUGH-RBSN simulator is intended to predict fracture evolution, as well as mass transport through permeable media, under dynamically changing hydrologic and mechanical conditions. Numerical results are compared with those of two independent studies involving hydro-mechanical coupling: (1) numerical modeling of swelling stress development in bentonite; and (2) experimental study of desiccation cracking in a mining waste. The comparisons show good agreement with respect to moisture content, stress development with changes in pore pressure, and time to crack initiation. The observed relationship between material thickness and crack patterns (e.g., mean spacing of cracks) is captured by the proposed modeling approach. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

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