Discrete fracture matrix modelling of fully-coupled CO2 flow – Deformation processes in fractured coal

K. H.S.M. Sampath, M. S.A. Perera, D. Elsworth, S. K. Matthai, P. G. Ranjith, Li Dong-yin

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13 Citations (Scopus)


CO2 interaction causes complex mechanical deformations and flow modifications in coal, depending on the spatial disposition of the fracture-matrix system. Sorption-induced matrix swelling reduces the local fracture aperture and correspondingly the fracture permeability, consequently influencing gas flow throughout the seam. Since these modifications are highly -heterogeneous and -localized, an explicitly-represented geometric model is essential for the accurate modelling of the fully-coupled process. In this study, the CO2 flow – coal deformation process is implemented in a numerical model at the scale of coal constituents (i.e. matrix blocks and cleats), through the inclusion of a spatially distributed 3D – discrete fracture matrix (DFM) network. Fracture geometry is generated from a stochastically simplified 2D fracture network obtained from micro-CT imaging. The approach is initially validated against experimental results from a single-fractured coal specimen and the analysis extended to the complex fracture geometry. The spatial and temporal evolutions of fracture/matrix pressure, adsorbed mass of CO2, adsorption-induced swelling, alterations in local fracture aperture and permeability, and contact modelling at fully fracture closure are specifically analysed with comparison against no-swelling behaviour. Results indicate that the high-permeability fracture pathways provide initial easy access for the CO2 to diffuse into the coal matrix, causing sorption-induced matrix swelling. Although the individual matrix blocks exhibit a slight shrinkage immediately upon injection of high fluid pressures within the fractures, sorption-induced swelling rapidly overcomes this, resulting in an overall volume expansion at full pressure equilibration. This is turn causes a significant reduction in fracture aperture and permeability. The magnitude of the local fracture aperture reduction depends on the swelling behaviour of the bounding matrix, that leads to essentially full-closure of small fractures, causing significant localized flow modifications to further CO2 injection in the vicinity of the particular fractures. The contact modelling approach identifies the timing and locations of fully-closing fractures in the complex geometry, where butt cleats exhibiting initial small apertures are prone to fully-close, compared to larger aperture face cleats that retain flow.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104644
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • CO2 interaction
  • Coal
  • DFM modelling
  • Hydro-mechanical coupling
  • Sorption-swelling

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