Fractured Rock Masses as Equivalent Continua - A Numerical Study

University dissertation from Stockholm : Mark och vatten

Abstract: In this thesis, fractured rock masses are treated asequivalent continua for large-scale analyses of rockengineering projects. Systematic developments are made for thedetermination of equivalent mechanical and hydraulic propertiesof fractured rock masses using a hybrid discrete fracturenetwork - distinct element method (DFN-DEM) approach. Thedetermined equivalent properties are then used for a far-fieldfinite element analysis of the thermo-mechanical impacts on thestress, deformation and permeability of fractured rockssurrounding a hypothetical geological repository of nuclearwaste. The geological data were extracted from the results ofan extensive site investigation programme at Sellafield, UK,conducted by Nirex UK Ltd.The scale dependencies of the hydraulic and mechanicalproperties were investigated by using multiple realizations ofthe fracture system geometry with increasing model sizes untilproperly defined hydraulic and mechanical representativeelementary volumes (REVs) were reached. The validity of thesecond order permeability tensor and the fourth-ordermechanical compliance tensor were tested for continuum analysesat larger scales. The REV was determined to be around 5 m formechanical and hydraulic data in this study.Analysis of the stress-dependent mechanical and hydraulicproperties shows that the effect of rock stresses is crucial.The elastic moduli increase significantly with the increase ofstress and an empirical equation of stress-dependent elasticmodulus is suggested based on results of numerical experiments.Calculations of the Poisson's ratios suggest greater valuesthan are normally assumed in practice. Depending on the stateof stress, permeability decreases or increases with increasingcompressive stress. Stress-induced flow channeling effect iscaptured by numerical modeling for the first time and detailedmechanisms of shear dilation of fractures are provided. Basedon the numerical experiments, a set of empirical equations wassuggested for the stress-dependent permeability, consideringboth normal deformation and shear dilation of fractures.Thermo-mechanical impact on the performance of ahypothetical repository at a far-field scale (5 km by 1 km) wasinvestigated with the stress-dependent equivalent propertiesdetermined at the REV scale. This analysis shows thatmechanical responses vary significantly depending on how themechanical properties were determined. The change ofpermeability due to the thermal loading is, however, notsignificant in this particular case.The thesis provides a framework for systematic analysis oflarge-scale engineering applications in fractured rock masses,such as geological repositories of nuclear wastes.Keyword:Fractured rock masses, Equivalent Continuum,Discrete Fracture Network (DFN), Distinct Element Method (DEM),Finite Element Method (FEM), Nuclear Waste Disposal, CoupledThermo-Hydro-Mechanical Processes