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Evolving properties of rocks during fracture growth : from numerical to experimental and in-situ experiments


AIMS AND OBJECTIVES My research aims are to investigate the physical properties of fractured rock masses at different stages of fracture growth. The objective of the research is therefore to elucidate how the evolution of the structural heterogeneity of rock masses affects seismic wave propagation, electrical conductivity, bulk permeability and solute transport. The scientific work is divided in five work packages which include the modelling of fracture patterns, data analysis from in-situ and laborato ry experiments as well as applications directed towards the management of sites of geophysical exploration (e.g. reservoir exploitation, waste repository). METHODS The scientific methodology is an iterative process based on comparisons between experime ntal results and the predictions of the numerical models. A cellular automaton model with long range interaction will be used to describe an evolving population of fractures. Synthetic fracture patterns will be compared to observations and used as input into pre-existing numerical codes. Laboratory and in-situ experiments conducted under the guidance of Prof. Zamora will provide an unique opportunity to address similar problems over a range of scale from the millimeter to the meter. Practical applicati ons will result from collaborations with institutes and private companies specializing in the management of geological formations. SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS It is critical to characterize the structural heterogeneity of rock masses in order to help susta inable development issues in geological environments. In the framework of this project, an independent set of geophysical observations will improve the understanding and the modelling of transport and deformation processes in the brittle crust. This res earch has therefore future application in risk assessment (e.g. earthquakes, volcanic eruptions) and in the management of groundwater and reservoirs.

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