X-ray CT based numerical analysis of fracture flow for core samples under various confining pressures

Noriaki Watanabe, Takuya Ishibashi, Yutaka Ohsaki, Yoshihiro Tsuchiya, Tetsuya Tamagawa, Nobuo Hirano, Hiroshi Okabe, Noriyoshi Tsuchiya

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66 Citations (Scopus)


The X-ray CT based numerical analysis of fracture flow for core samples, recently developed by the authors, was applied to two granite core samples having either a mated artificial or a mated natural fracture at confining pressures of 5 to 50. MPa. A third-generation medical X-ray CT scanner was used to image the samples within a core holder consisting of an aluminum liner and a carbon fiber overwrap. Fracture models (i.e., aperture distributions) were obtained by the CT images, the resolution of which was coarser than the apertures, and a single-phase flow simulation was performed using a local cubic law-based fracture flow model. Numerical results were evaluated by a fracture porosity measurement and a solution displacement experiment using NaCl and NaI aqueous solutions. These numerical results coincided only qualitatively with the experimental results, primarily due to image noise from the aluminum liner of the core holder. Nevertheless, the numerical results revealed flow paths within the fractures and their changes with confining pressure, whereas the experimental results did not provide such results. Different stress-dependencies in the flow paths were observed between the two samples despite the similar stress-dependency in fracture porosity and permeability. The changes in total area of the flow paths with confining pressure coincided qualitatively with changes in breakthrough points in the solution displacement experiment. Although the data is limited, the results of the present study suggest the importance of analyzing fluid flows within naturally fractured core samples under in situ conditions in order to better understand the fracture flow characteristics in a specific field. As demonstrated herein, X-ray CT-based numerical analysis is effective for addressing this concern. Using a multi-phase flow model, as well as a core holder constructed of an engineered plastic, should provide a useful, non-destructive, and non-contaminative X-ray CT-based fracture flow analysis for core samples under in situ conditions in future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-346
Number of pages9
JournalEngineering Geology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Nov 21


  • Confining pressure
  • Core sample
  • Fracture flow
  • Numerical analysis
  • X-ray CT


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