Numerical modeling of stress-permeability coupling in rough fractures

Robert Walsh, Christoper McDermott, Olaf Kolditz

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


A numerical model is described for coupled flow and mechanical deformation in fractured rock. The mechanical response of rock joints to changes in hydraulic pressure is strongly influenced by the geometric characteristics of the joint surfaces. The concept of this work is to combine straightforward finite element solutions with complex and realistic fracture surface geometry in order to reproduce the non-linear stress-deformation-permeability coupling that is commonly observed in fractures. Building on the numerous studies that have expanded the understanding of the key parameters needed to describe natural rough-walled fractures, new methods have been developed to generate a finite element mesh representing discrete fractures with realistic rough surface geometries embedded in a rock matrix. The finite element code GeoSys/Rockflow was then used to simulate the coupled effects of hydraulic stress, mechanical stress, and surface geometry on the evolving permeability of a single discrete fracture. The modeling concept was experimentally verified against examples from the literature. Modeling results were also compared to a simple interpenetration model
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
Specialist publicationHydrogeology Journal
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008


  • Fractured rocks
  • Numerical modelling
  • Hydromechanical coupling
  • Discrete fracture model
  • Fracture surface topography


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