Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Modeling of fluid injection-induced fault reactivation using coupled fluid flow and mechanical interface model


The present study is aimed at developing a numerical model to reproduce coupled hydro-mechanical processes associated with fault reactivation by fluid injection in low permeability rock, as part of the DECOVALEX-2019 project Task B. We proposed a modeling approach for simulating the processes using the TOUGH-FLAC simulator, and modeled a fault reactivation experiment conducted at Mont Terri Rock Laboratory in Switzerland. The first step of the study involved benchmark calculations considering a simplified fault plane and geometry. Fluid flow along a fault was modeled using elements of aperture-sized thickness on the basis of Darcy's law and the cubic law in TOUGH2, whereas the mechanical behavior of a single fault was represented by zero-thickness interface elements in FLAC3D upon which a slip and/or separation is allowed. A methodology to connect a TOUGH2 volume element to a FLAC3D interface element was developed for handling the hydro-mechanical interactions on the fault during fluid injection. Two different fault models for describing the evolutions of hydraulic aperture by elastic fracture opening and failure-induced aperture increase were considered in the benchmark calculations. In the coupling process, the changes in geometrical features and hydrological properties induced by mechanical deformation were continuously updated. The transient responses of the fault and host rock to stepwise pressurization were examined during the simulation. The hydro-mechanical behavior, including the injection flow rate, pressure distribution around the borehole, stress conditions, and displacements in normal and shear directions were monitored in the surrounding rock and along the fault. The results of benchmark calculations suggest that the developed model reasonably represents the hydro-mechanical behavior of a fault and the surrounding rock. This modeling approach was applied to the fault reactivation experiment of the Mont Terri Rock Laboratory. In this interpretive modeling, a parametric study was conducted to examine the effects of input parameters regarding in situ stress and fault properties on the hydro-mechanical responses of the fault to water injection. Then, an optimal parameter set to reproduce the field experiment results was chosen by trial-and-error. The injection flow rate and pressure response during fault reactivation closely matched those obtained at the site, which indicates the capability of the model to appropriately capture the progressive pathway evolution during fault reactivation tests at the site. The anchor displacements were overestimated by the model, but a fair agreement was obtained in terms of the order of magnitude and the variation tendency.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View