Temporal alteration of fracture permeability in granite under hydrothermal conditions and its interpretation by coupled chemo-mechanical model

Hide Yasuhara, Naoki Kinoshita, Hiroaki Ohfuji, Dae Sung Lee, Shinichiro Nakashima, Kiyoshi Kishida

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87 Citations (Scopus)


Examining the evolution of fracture permeability under stressed and temperature-elevated conditions, a series of flow-through experiments on a single rock fracture in granite has been conducted under confining pressures of 5 and 10. MPa, under differential water pressures ranging from 0.04 to 0.5. MPa, and at temperatures of 20-90 °C, for several hundred hours in each experiment. Measurements of fluid and dissolved mass fluxes, and post-experimental microscopy, were conducted to constrain the progress of mineral dissolution and/or precipitation and to examine its effect on transport properties. Generally, the fracture aperture monotonically decreased with time at room temperature, and reached a steady state in relatively short periods (i.e., <400. h). However, once the temperature was elevated to 90 °C, the aperture resumed decreasing and kept decreasing throughout the rest of the experimental periods. This reduction may result from the removal of the mineral mass from the bridging asperities within the fracture. Post-experimental observations by scanning electron microscopy, coupled with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX), revealed the formation of several kinds of secondary minerals such as silica and calcite. However, the precipitated minerals seemed to have had little influence on the flow characteristics within the fracture, because the precipitation was limited to quite local and small areas. The evolving rates and ultimate magnitudes of the fracture aperture are likely to be controlled by the stress exerted over the contacting asperities and temperatures, and by the prescribed flow conditions. Thus, this complex behavior should be attributed to the coupled chemically- and mechanically-induced effect. A coupled chemo-mechano conceptual model, accounting for pressure and free-face dissolutions, is presented in this paper to follow the evolution of the fracture permeability observed in the flow-through experiments. This model addresses the two dissolution processes at the contacting asperities and the free walls within the fractures, and is also capable of describing multi-mineral dissolution behavior. The model shows that the evolution of a fracture aperture (or related permeability) and of element concentrations may be followed with time under arbitrary temperature and pressure conditions. The model predictions for the evolving fracture aperture and elements concentrations show a relatively good agreement with the experimental measurements, although it is not possible to replicate the abrupt reduction observed in the early periods of the experiments, which is likely to be due to an unaccounted mechanism of more stress-mediated fracture compaction driven by the fracturing of the propping asperities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2074-2088
Number of pages15
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Dec
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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