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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Discrete Dilatant Pathway Modeling of Gas Migration Through Compacted Bentonite Clay

  • Author(s): Kim, K
  • Rutqvist, J
  • Harrington, JF
  • Tamayo-Mas, E
  • Birkholzer, JT
  • et al.

A coupled multiphase fluid flow and discrete fracturing model is applied to simulate bench-scale gas migration experiments on compacted bentonite. The numerical modeling is based on the linking of the multiphase fluid flow simulator TOUGH2 with a Rigid-Body-Spring Network model, which enables a discrete (lattice) representation of elasticity and individual fractures. The evolution of a complex network of dilatant flow paths is modeled through opening and breakage of lattice interface bonds between porous-elastic matrix elements. To achieve a good match with the experimental results, including an abrupt gas breakthrough along with pressure and stress responses, it was necessary to calibrate model parameters for (1) air-entry pressure, (2) shear and tensile failure of lattice interface bonds, (3) moisture swelling/shrinkage effects on stress, and (4) aperture-dependent permeability of dilatant flow paths. Our best-fit conceptual model considers a pervasive network of discrete flow paths propagating from the gas injection point, whereas some of the experimental data indicate the potential for heterogeneous and unstable flow paths.

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