Mineral Fabric as a Hidden Variable in Fracture Formation in Layered Media.


Department of Physics and Astronomy, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, 47907, USA. [Email]


Two longstanding goals in subsurface science are to induce fractures with a desired geometry and to adaptively control the interstitial geometry of existing fractures in response to changing subsurface conditions. Here, we demonstrate that microscopic mineral fabric and structure interact with macroscopic strain fields to generate emergent meso-scale geometries of induced fractures. These geometries define preferential directions of flow. Using additively manufactured rock, we demonstrate that highly conductive flow paths can be formed in tensile fractures by creating corrugated surfaces. Generation, suppression and enhancement of corrugations depend on the relative orientation between mineral fabric and layering. These insights into the role of micro-scale structure on macro-scale flow provide a new method for designing subsurface strategies to maximize potential production or to inhibit flow.

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