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Assessing the validity of the channel model of fracture aperture under field conditions

Water Resources Research

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ORCID iD and
https://doi.org/10.1029/WR025i005p00817

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Abstract

In recent investigations of fluid and solute movement in discrete fractures, spatial heterogeneity of the fracture aperture has been conceptualized as a series of noninterconnecting constant aperture flow paths, or channels. Two methods of estimating the distribution of the aperture sizes are presented using information from a single-hole pumping test and a radially converging tracer test. The first method uses the transmissivity of the fracture and mean arrival time of the tracer, while the second method uses the mean and variance of the solute arrival time. If the fracture can be conceptualized as a series of nonintersecting flow paths of constant aperture, the two methods should yield identical estimates for the parameters of the distribution. The validity of the channel model can be assessed by comparing the parameters of the distribution that are estimated by the two methods. This technique was demonstrated using hydraulic and tracer tests conducted in a discrete, areally extensive, horizontal fracture in the Silurian dolomite in the northeastern Illinois. A lognormal and a truncated gamma distribution were used to describe the distribution of constant aperture flow paths. The lognormal distribution could not reproduce the abrupt rising limb and maximum rate of mass arrival that characterized the tracer tests. The gamma distribution more accurately predicted the shape of the breakthrough curves; however, the two methods of estimating the parameters of the distribution provided significantly different estimates of the variances of the aperture sizes. The mean aperture as estimated by the two methods was similar. The difference in the variance of the aperture as estimated by the two methods indicates that alternative conceptual models of aperture heterogeneity are required to more accurately describe both fluid and solute movement in this field situation.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Assessing the validity of the channel model of fracture aperture under field conditions
Series title:
Water Resources Research
DOI:
10.1029/WR025i005p00817
Volume:
25
Issue:
5
Year Published:
1989
Language:
English
Publisher:
American Geophysical Union
Description:
12 p.
First page:
817
Last page:
828