Journal Article

The imprint of hydro-mechanics of fractures in periodic pumping tests

C. Vinci, H. Steeb and J. Renner

in Geophysical Journal International

Volume 202, issue 3, pages 1613-1626
ISSN: 0956-540X
Published online July 2015 | e-ISSN: 1365-246X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/gji/ggv247
The imprint of hydro-mechanics of fractures in periodic pumping tests

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Modelling of pressure transients recorded in wells allows for characterization of reservoirs surrounding the well. Simulation of pressure transients furthermore permits sensitivity studies for individual model parameters. We numerically simulated pumping tests in a vertical well intersecting a single horizontal fracture to evaluate the diagnostic potential of periodic pumping procedures for subsurface characterization. The pressure responses in the pumping and monitoring wells were analysed with respect to their sensitivity to geometrical and hydraulic properties of the fracture and of the surrounding rock material. We focused on interference analysis that for periodic pumping tests reduces to a consideration of amplitude ratio and phase shift between pressure transients recorded at an injection well and monitoring points. Fluid flow in the deformable fracture was modelled employing (1) a hybrid-dimensional hydro-mechanically coupled approach and (2) an uncoupled-diffusion equation. Results of both approaches were compared to quantify the effects of hydro-mechanical coupling. While in the uncoupled-diffusion approach a bulk storage capacity value is prescribed for the fracture, storage capacity is implicitly accounted for by the coupling in the hybrid-dimensional approach. Results reveal that hydro-mechanical coupling strongly affects the pressure transient at the pumping well and the monitoring points. Asymmetry of the pressure profiles between injection and production phases at the injection point is a peculiar characteristic of the hydro-mechanical results and is related to changes in fracture permeability with fluid pressure caused by fracture deformation. Further hydro-mechanical effects, such as reverse-pressure response, occur at monitoring points along the fracture domain, in particular at positions in the conduit where the contribution of diffusive pressure propagation remains small, that is, at monitoring distances large compared to classic scaling for penetration depth using hydraulic diffusivity. During periodic pumping tests the reverse response is potentially triggered various times within one period and thus chances to unequivocally recognize this effect are largely enhanced in comparison to conventional pulse or step testing procedures. The standard scaling relation for diffusion processes, often employed in the analysis of induced seismicity, has limited applicability to deformable fractures.

Keywords: Numerical solutions; Fourier analysis; Permeability and porosity; Plasticity, diffusion, and creep; Fracture and flow

Journal Article.  10174 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Geophysics ; Oceanography and Hydrology

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